New Yahoo Mail Smells Like Gmail (2012)

With ex-Google executive Marissa Meyer reigning the purple company as CEO, it is not surprising why Yahoo seems to be on trance in releasing many updates on  their key web applications and services. It is clear that Yahoo is determined in catching up  the competitors.

Ever since I reviewed the New Yahoo Mail in 2011, I used it once in a while only but it never replaced Gmail as my primary email client anymore. Then came the new Outlook.com in Q3 2012 which is a radical rebranding of Hotmail. At the moment I use Outlook.com more often than Yahoo already. Then a few days earlier I received the newly updated Yahoo Mail and Yahoo claims that it the best ever Yahoo Mail ever. Is it really the best update ever?

New Yahoo Mail Features

Below is the screenshot of the new email composer. Is it much more refined compared to the older version? I can\’t really remember. However, when compared to Gmail and Outlook  I think they are all about the same now. Gmail took a minimalist approach after they revamped the composer recently and it currently lacks emoticon support unless you switched back to the older email composer. Outlook has the most number of emoticons (or should I say emoji?) while Yahoo still sports their very old line up of standard emoticons.

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The features highlighted in 2011 are the following: visibly faster email, enhanced security, mobility and integration, ease of use, automatic organizer and personal archive.

This year, the features are somewhat the same, just in different packaging. At first you may not notice the difference but the user interface had been refined and simplified to make logging in and writing email faster than ever.

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The dark buttons are gone. Instead of words —  Reply, Reply All and Forward are now just big icons. Several buttons are labelled to make sure that you don\’t confuse them with other icons such as Delete, Move, Spam and Actions.

Other noticeable difference is the removal of Yahoo Messenger, Sign Out, Options and Help links at the top to make room for a generic Yahoo pull-down menu at the top right corner, followed by Yahoo Mail logo, search mail / search web, then finally user account links, options and a home icon linked to Yahoo.com homepage. Finally, Yahoo Mail has so much cleaner and intuitive UI.

Resemblance to Gmail

If you put Gmail and Yahoo Mail side by side, you\’ll start to notice the similarities. Gmail has one black menu bar at the top. Yahoo is using a menu icon (three stacked rectangles) where all other Yahoo services are linked. Then you have one big search bar, then you user account links and other options at the right.

Yahoo and Gmail both use monochromatic icons. The only reason my icons in Gmail are colored in the screenshot below is because I am using Gmelius.

Even the placement of Yahoo Contacts is reminiscent to Gmail, except that in Gmail you have to click Gmail to get access to a drop down option for Contacts and Tasks.

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I don\’t think Yahoo is ripping off Google here but Yahoo is dangerously going in that direction.

iPhone, Android and Windows 8

Perhaps the best part of this New Yahoo Mail update is that Yahoo updated their native apps as well.

Windows 8 in particular is treated with an interface designed only for Windows 8. It comes with notifications and live tile support exploiting new features of Windows 8.

I also like the Android and iPhone app because they offer superb mobile email experience similar to Gmail.

Conclusion

The New Yahoo Mail can be described in three words:  fast, easy and anywhere. It really is the best release of Yahoo Mail so far despite looking more like Gmail after each iteration.

The native apps on Android, iOS and Windows 8 gives a consistent experience across different platform and has very high quality, which shows Yahoo can really compete in the apps space when it really tries. Let\’s hope Yahoo will continue to come up with more innovations.

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iGoogle Alternatives – Find a New Start Page Before Google Shutdowns iGoogle in 2013

It\’s a sad day for iGooglers because Google is going to axe iGoogle in November 1, 2013. Google gave  iGooglers 16 months to move on and find a new start page. There are only few worthy iGoogle alternatives left in 2012 unlike 5 years ago.

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I still remember between 2005 and 2007 — these AJAX start pages keep on popping up like wild mushrooms and I know there will come a point that the bubble will burst. The decline seemed gradual as more mobile devices replaced desktop.

Google wants to focus on Chrome and Android platform in giving personalized information or dashboard and I agree with Google that today\’s web and mobile apps gives you more personalized real-time information at your fingertips and you don\’t need to look at your start page most of the time, or it totally replaced the need for start pages or home pages. This is the reason I predominantly use Android — widgets.  However, for the majority who are still using desktop as their primary tool in getting things done, there is still room for iGoogle alternatives.

iGoogle Alternatives

The following are some  iGoogle Alternatives that is worth reviewing if you are coming from iGoogle.

Netvibes

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From (re)mix everything to dashboard everything, Netvibes remains my number favorite in start page / personal dashboard website. In fact I have been using Netvibes since 2005 and it remains my top choice in this category.

There are many things that make Netvibes unique from all other start pages because it supports  premium features for dashboard intelligence. It gives you tools for collaboration, curation, sentiments analysis and analytics. I think they coined the term \”dashboard intelligence\”  to position their service along business intelligence. With real-time monitoring it can be used for brand monitoring, e-reputation management, product marketing, community portals and just about everything where you want to use dashboard.

Protopage

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Protopage is a decent iGoogle alternative based in London, UK. It still has a beta feel to it even though it\’s about 7 years old now. You can say that it has survived the test of time and still thriving.

If you are looking for widgets and feed aggregation, Protopage got it all.

MyYahoo

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MyYahoo is the only remaining portal/start page coming from a major media and internet company. Microsoft already closed Live (my.live.com) way back in March 2010. iGoogle will follow soon in November 2013. If you are using Yahoo services, it is still a great alternative to iGoogle but you are limited with Yahoo services  only.

Some of the lesser known alternatives are symbaloo.cominbox.comkiiosk.com24eyes.comwebwag.com and nowsy.com

The Start Pages Deadpool

Wonder what happened to other start pages? They are dead.

  • Eskobo
  • Goowy
  • Live (my.live.com)
  • Pageflakes
  • Zoozio

Pageflakes is one of the promising competitor out there but due to several outages, lagging behind competition and stale product development, it was discontinued on January 2012.

I am sure more AJAX start pages will join the graveyard soon but iGoogle will join the party sooner.

Opinion

I think iGoogle should have been transformed into a new product or service. With the explosion of big data and the increase number of new media, there is still a need for a place or dashboard to aggregate these pieces and chunk of information. By filtering the noise and giving options customization it could serve as a personal dashboard.

Maybe Google has a bigger plan. Who knows?

What\’s your thought about this? Is start pages and personal dashboard dead?

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New Delicious by Youtube Founders Now Live

The new Delicious is now online, and just like traveling back in time, it\’s back to beta.

After acquiring the service from Yahoo! in April, we realized that in order to keep innovating over the long term, the eight-year-old site needed to be rebuilt from the ground up.

The new Delicious now has a new homepage and easier-to-use interface. It used to have a geeky look-and-feel but now it seems to be more social and open.

Applying the idea of playlists, the Youtube founders saw an opportunity to introduce this concept in the new Delicious website and they called it stacks. Watch the video to get started.

Stacks are collection of links that you can group together and share just like a Youtube playlist. You can customize it by choosing the image to feature, you can arrange the links and add description for the your Stack. It is a curator\’s bestfriend. When you visit Delicious you are presented with popular stacks first, and on another tab, popular links. The focus now is curation of related links, not just links.

Bundles are gone but your old links and tags are still intact provided you agreed to opt-in to let AVOS export or transport your Delicious bookmarks to the new Delicious. Fortunately, I did not organize a lot of bundles so I\’m not affected. If you are a heavy bundle user, give stacks a try. They are so much more intuitive to use.

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Fans, networks and subscriptions are now gone as well. Delicious adopted the concept of following. Basically you can follow stacks or users just like how you follow lists and users in Twitter.

I was surprised that adding a profile picture is not supported in Delicious before but now the new Delicious already supports this feature!

Multi-word tags also works in new Delicious so you can tag links with \”social media\” or \”to do\”.

As for the browser extensions, I tested Firefox and Chrome its the basic functionality in saving links are still working. The removed features are not working obviously and the new features like stacks are still not available. Right now, I advise users to use the new Delicious bookmarklet. It looks like this:

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Since Delicious is back in beta, we should wait for further developments. Stacks is a clever new feature and I like it. Whether Delicious will gain more fans, we still don\’t know but the new version might get Delicious new followers.

Delicious was originally made by Joshua Schachter and was acquired by Yahoo in 2005. Youtube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen bought Delicious last April this year when it was put up for sale by Yahoo. The new Delicious is the first major overhaul of the popular social bookmarking website after several years of stagnation.

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Whatever Happened to Yahoo?

When I look back at my primary school years, Yahoo is quite special for me because it is one of the first few websites that I have browsed way back in 1995 when Yahoo was only a year old then and it is one of the  leading internet search engine and brand at that time.

So I read news about Carol Bartz and I couldn\’t comprehend why they booted her that way. It was so cruel. Apparently, the reason Yahoo want to make headlines firing Bartz is to advertise the job vacancy as widely as possible. (d\’oh!)

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Don\’t you think that it was too harsh? The consolation is that she gets a severance package worth $10M.

So, what happened to Yahoo? Paul Graham\’s article reminded me of this trouble.

Looking at Yahoo now, it\’s very disappointing how it wasted a lot of opportunities to better position itself in the market and reinvent itself.

Om was right, someone should really fire the board. Restart from scratch and find their bearing. That board had made terrible mistakes over and over and firing Bartz will not help Yahoo get back on track.

Just look at Yahoo\’s stocks during Carol Bartz\’s term:

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Yahoo is back to where it started.

I don\’t know how true that Yahoo is up for sale.  Apparently, Jerry Yang said that Yahoo is not for sale.

Yahoo is losing more and more money and as far as I can see, its name and brand had been tarnished already with repetitive mistakes. Its brand doesn\’t inspire confidence either. What could happen to Yahoo if it doesn\’t find the right leader to put things back in order? Only time will tell.

 

 

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New Yahoo Mail (2011)

Update 2012-12-16: If you are looking for the New Yahoo Mail 2012 update, click here. Otherwise, proceed reading.

I should have done this review long ago but I haven\’t paid much attention to the New Yahoo Mail service until I received the service announcement last week that Yahoo is upgrading all non-beta users to the New Yahoo Mail. It\’s almost a year now since I have participated in the early beta and now the public can already upgrade to the latest version of Yahoo Mail.

Before I continue,  I need to confess something: my Yahoo Mail account has collected cobwebs since I switched to Gmail but I do log in occasionally to keep my account active.

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Key Features of the New Yahoo Mail

Faster Email

Yahoo claims that this version is 2x faster and I really feel that this version is faster than the previous incarnation of the \’improved\’ Yahoo Mail 2 years ago. It also allows instant previews of photos and videos, and you can play it right in your inbox. I tried linking a Video video and it was not recognized so I think that the instant slideshows and playback is only limited with official supported sites Flickr, Picasa and Youtube.

Quick Reply looks like Gmail\’s  in-line reply but unlike Gmail where you can edit the subject and recipients on the fly, Yahoo Mail\’s Quick Reply works like an instant message only. You can only type your reply and there\’s no other option. It\’s very useful for quick one-liner response and that\’s all there is to it.

Enhance Security

Yahoo boast a better spam protection and to some degree I agree that they do have a better spam protection because I receive far less spam in my Yahoo inbox than in my Gmail inbox even if my Yahoo email address had been around longer.

Mobility and Integrations

Yahoo Mobile Mail is available in major mobile devices like iPhone, iPad and Android.

Instant messaging and SMS is now highly integrated with the new user interface.  Apart from email, you can also choose instant messages and SMS when composing new message.

You can also optionally connect your Facebook friends to chat with them right in your inbox. Personally, I will not integrate my Yahoo account with my Facebook account for reasons that I have discussed in my blog in the past.

Ease of Use

While it\’s true that the new Yahoo Mail  is faster than ever before and it fully supports all major mobile devices, some of the basic features that I am looking forward are still missing

There is still no threaded messages. Somehow when you got a  taste of Gmail, it\’s hard to come back to Yahoo or any conventional listed emails.

Also, I\’m a bit surprised that clicking reply on the top navigation does not copy what you have written on the quick reply area. What if in the middle of a \’quick\’ reply  I change my mind and I want to format my message? In order to keep what I written on the space below, I have to copy it – click reply – then paste it; still not as useful as I thought it would be.

Yahoo Mail breaks the back button. Click the back button does not return you to the previous action. If you click the back button you will most likely end up on the sign-in page. How can they miss this?

On the positive note, when I tested the beta version last year, there is still no page-by-page navigation. I have requested this over and over for the last 2 years and that\’s the best thing they have added from my feature requests. At last, my Yahoo inbox works like how I wanted it.

Automatic Organizer

If you activate the automatic organizer application by Otherinbox, your lower priority emails will be automatically organized in folders which leaves more important messages from family and friends in your inbox. It seems like a good idea but I am not comfortable enabling a 3rd party application right in my inbox. I find the implementation of priority inbox in Gmail more useful than this.

Personal Archive

Ever since Yahoo took heavy competition from Gmail, Yahoo started offering unlimited storage. It is awesome even for casual users. Gone are the days that you have to worry about your mail inbox limit.

When sending attachments, you can attach large files as many as 50 files or as big as 100mb in a single email using Yousendit 3rd party application. Take note that  standard attachment size is still 25mb which is the max message size limit.

Yahoo Mail Overall Impression

Overall I think this is the best Yahoo Mail ever since Gmail came out. I think Yahoo listened a lot from loyal fans and translated that feedback to this latest version of Yahoo Mail. Even if it took so long to achieve this status I think it is worth all the time and effort put into this product.

The integration of Yahoo Messenger, SMS and Facebook right in your inbox looks very attractive for avid chatters and babblers because it gives easy access to all your online friends even on the web.

Good things put aside, let me enumerate what I found missing. I already mentioned the broken back button and remarkably limited quick reply but there\’s more.

Secure HTTP connection or HTTPS is still not available in this version of Yahoo Mail. Gmail and Windows Live have this for some time now. It shows that Yahoo do not care if your inbox is vulnerable to session  side-jacking. Session hijacking is not new but it is getting more accessible using free hijacking software readily available on the web like Firesheep.

Until today you still have to pay premium fee for POP access and it is just sad because it should have been free long time ago. You can use IMAP in mobile free of charge and there is a work around to make it work in PC but you have to do some research.

Threaded conversation is also absent. I\’m not sure if this feature is not requested by many Yahoo Mail users at all or Yahoo is just reluctant to copy yet another Gmail pioneer feature. Windows Live already gave an option to group email by conversation long time ago for the benefits of Live users. Why can\’t Yahoo do the same?

Then there is the ongoing concern with Yahoo\’s updated Privacy Policy which I will discuss after I have done a review on Yahoo Messenger 11.

You can watch the \’trailer\’ video below and you can also watch it New Yahoo Mail overview.

Wrapping Up

Let me wrap this up by saying that to me, Gmail is still the best free email provider, IMHO. Competition is good and it creates a lot of options for consumers like you and me. Yahoo\’s effort to modernize the look and feel of Yahoo! Mail is certainly welcome. There are some good new features thrown in but it still fall short on my expectation.

Let me know what you think of the new Yahoo Mail in the comment section.

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Yahoo Messenger 11 Beta and Privacy

Originally I wanted to just make a simple review of Yahoo Messenger 11 Beta several weeks ago but after using it for a while I ended up reviewing things that I don\’t like about it. It is easy to overlook these things if you don\’t pay attention.

It seems like everyone is riding the Facebook bandwagon because it adds the \”cool factor\” and it also eliminates the hassle of creating another account.

Enter Yahoo Messenger 11 Beta with Facebook chat and social games.

With the latest beta version, YM effectively integrates not only with Windows Live but also with Facebook chat, too. Posting status to Yahoo! Pulse, Facebook and Twitter is also now supported. You can also play social games from Zynga, Elex and OMGPOP which some people really look forward to. Yahoo is also releasing YM for Android so video calls among PC, iPhone and Android users would be soon possible using Yahoo Messenger.

Yahoo had also changed how conversion history are recorded. All conversation logs are now recorded online. Read again carefully: online. It even prompts you to import your old conversation archive online; something that I won\’t do because I would like my conversations archived on my computer, not in the internet. It poses privacy concerns despite the ease of access to recent conversations anywhere you log in.

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This puzzles me. I don\’t know why Yahoo enabled signing in to multiple PC simultaneously when conversations are recorded online anyway. You can already send offline messages in YM so why do you need to be always online in two different places? You can\’t do that in previous versions and I consider that a good feature. Allowing only one session secures that the older session gets logged out so it saves you from worrying if you logged out from your friend\’s laptop or a public computer rental. I hope Yahoo rethink this feature.

Linking or integrating Yahoo Messenger 11 with Facebook will require you to log in your Facebook account. Then you\’ll get this prompt:

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That\’s a lot to ask Yahoo. I thought RockMelt was awful asking for my personal information because it is a browser but Yahoo Messenger is worse. I haven\’t seen a chat client asking that much information so that I could simple chat in Facebook. Obviously Yahoo is data mining user information and it is something I am not happy to participate in.

For my last note, I miss the days when Yahoo Messenger is running lean and using conservative amount of memory. Running YM 11 beta with the default settings (updates and plug-ins enabled), the application could easily eat over 100mb of memory. I know it is still in beta but it is quite heavy. I hope they will fine-tune it in the final build.

You can download the latest beta here.

So what do you think of Yahoo Messenger 11 Beta?

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Try The New Yahoo Mail Beta

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Yahoo had finally done something with Yahoo Mail with their latest beta of the popular free email service.

The new version highly resembles desktop email clients like Outlook and Thunderbird. The inbox, folders, tabs and buttons are still placed on their familiar spots. While this may appeal to some, users who have already got accustomed to Gmail may not likely favor the new interface.

Purple dominates the screen and there\’s no option for customization yet. While it is still in beta, it would be more fun if you can change themes to give your inbox some personalization just like in Gmail and Live.

Under the hood, the new Yahoo Mail sports more speed and better spam protection. Even though I am sifting through hundreds of emails, the UI is very responsive. Yahoo claims that this version is 2 times faster.

Like in the previous versions, you can see who among your contacts are online. You can chat with them by instant messaging (IM) or SMS. It also integrates with social networks like Facebook and Twitter so you can see, post and join with your friends\’ conversations. Yahoo also conveniently added viewing of pictures and videos right in your inbox which make sharing multimedia easier.

Watch the video below to learn more about the new Yahoo Mail beta.

Try the new Yahoo Mail beta

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