When I was President of UniPress Software, five+ years ago, I wanted to have a personal email account outside of the unipress.com domain, where I received hundreds of work related messages a day. The first nice free email service I found was provided by Yahoo. I could also do some other neat things at Yahoo, both for personal and business purposes. I could get the day’s news, I could search the Internet, and I could keep track of the daily values of some stocks I followed or owned.
Along came Google. First chance I could, I started to do all my searching on Google. Who wouldn’t? It was way better. I left my news reading, financial info, and email on Yahoo. Once I looked at ‘gmail,’ which was better than Yahoo email right out of the box, I wanted to switch, and I quickly made an account with my name, but the task of moving my account over, and also alerting my friends and family of the change, was a big pain. So I just delayed and delayed, and continued to use Yahoo for a lot of my internet activities and email.
As an advertiser for my software company, I could consider both Yahoo and Google as excellent places to place ads. Both had many fans, both provide good leads, and they were the kind of places to advertise.
Then, about 2 years ago, I let a friend use my personal PC for an hour while visiting. I don’t know what they downloaded or accessed, but very soon after they left, my Yahoo contact list was hit by an ugly email spam message which came from ‘me.’ And my PC is very well protected from viruses. I found that this spam program which had infected my Yahoo email sent the message to each of my 500 or so contacts by sending to a list of 20 or 30 of the contacts at a time. Yahoo email would not let me (or the spammer) send to all 500 at once, so I could only take a few steps to make things better, like answering friends who thought I had lost my mind, changing my password, adding more layers of virus protection, etc. It was time for me to move to Google’s gmail.
So I did. I forward all Yahoo email (automatically) to my gmail account. I put a note into my emails about my new email address. I never use Yahoo email to send anything. My Yahoo presence is way down, and I would never advertise there now.
1) I find that spam messages, which are missed by the Yahoo email system, and end up in my email stream, never seem to get into my gmail. Google does this 1000% better.
2) The gmail interface and functionality are way better. Email is easier to read, write, access, search, etc, in so many ways.
3) gmail seems to be pretty impervious to getting taken over by spammers like my Yahoo email did. And every once in a while, of course, some friend using Yahoo email gets struck like I did, I get a crazy spam from them. Yahoo still hasn’t fixed this! As an aside, when this problem hit my Yahoo email account, I googled for the problem. Many thousands or tens of thousands of people had had their email accounts compromised. Amazing to me that this problem did not get solved. What were (are) they thinking in Yahoo-central?
So, finally, what should Marissa Mayer do? She should put a lot of technical energy into making Yahoo email better than gmail. The interface needs to be better. The functionality needs to improve greatly. The spam catching, both for random spam messages creeping into the normal email stream, and for spams which steal your email account need to be made bulletproof.
Philosophically, for Yahoo, this would be starting at the grass roots, and an email system which people loved would get Yahoo back a share of the community. The eyeballs reading Yahoo emails will look at news, financials, use their search (when convenient), and read the ads which companies place. If Facebook has the latest pix, news from friends and family, and Twitter has the latest micro-gossip, and Google has the search, Yahoo needs something. And an excellent email system is the way to start. Go get-em Marissa.