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Yahoo Mail vs Gmail: a no waffle comparison

Following the abusive closure of my Adsense account by Shitgle (I promise, this entry wasn’t created by me! I was as surprised as you when I found out it was already there…), as part of a general boost I got in my move away from G**gle, I made the switch from Gmail to Yahoo Mail. About 2 months later, I think I can provide a good overview of the strengths and weaknesses of both.

Yahoo Mail seems better than Gmail on those aspects:

  • storage: unlimited for Yahoo Mail, a bit higher than 7.6 GB for Gmail
  • speed: seriously, Yahoo Mail loads (both the website as a whole and each e-mail) noticeably faster than Gmail. One can argue this is because it doesn’t have as many functions, still the result is you waste much less time browsing your e-mails. With 5 seconds per e-mail for 50 e-mails a day, you’d save about half an hour a week.
  • tabbed browsing: like it was at the beginning of tabbed browsers, that doesn’t feel necessary when you aren’t used to having it. But once you get it, it’s hard to do without it. (much harder than dropping conversation view)
  • privacy: you probably don’t use Yahoo Search, and you quite certainly don’t visit sites serving Yahoo Adsense, Yahoo Analytics or Yahoo ReCAPTCHA. When you use Yahoo Mail, chances are the only information Yahoo will get about you is your e-mails. When you use Gmail, chances are the information from your e-mails will stack over the info from your searches, info about your visited website (through Adsense, Analytics, ReCAPTCHA), and probably also from Youtube, providing Google with such a full profile that they probably know more about yourself than you do (do you remember which videos and which sites you viewed on January 10, 2012? Well, Google does). Seriously, divide and conquer.
  • one e-mail alias: Yahoo lets you have one alias, so you can use 2 e-mail addresses from the same e-mail account. The same effect can of course be achieved in Gmail by creating 2 accounts and forwarding one to the other, so that’s only a minor plus, but still I find it cool to be able to use 2 addresses without the need to manage 2 accounts.
  • “forging” the sender: Yahoo Mail and Gmail both have the option to send an e-mail appearing as “From” another e-mail address that you verified ownership of. But as I pointed out in a previous post, that feature in Gmail is crap because for most recipients, your “real” (non-alias) e-mail will be displayed. On the opposite, that feature works perfectly in Yahoo Mail. Great for sending professional e-mails.
  • keyboard shortcuts: Gmail has them too, but Yahoo Mail had the brilliant idea to follow the computer tradition of indicating shortcuts in the menus. The result is I now know must of them (at least the useful ones), while I still don’t have a clue of a single Gmail shortcut. A clear win on accessibility.
  • more functional design: okay, the old Gmail design was just as good as Yahoo’s, but soon they’ll be forcing their awful new space-wasting design over everyone, making Yahoo’s design better (more compact = more functional).

Gmail seems better than Yahoo Mail on those aspects:

  • account restrictions: Yahoo Mail implemented a system to prevent their users from sending spam. The only problem is that this system isn’t very clever, which results in 1) I very often (more than daily) have to type a freaking CAPTCHA in order to be able to send some e-mails and 2) you can easily get auto-blocked from sending e-mails for a 48h period: if you need to send urgent e-mails, your pretty much screwed and left with no alternative but to use another account. This sucks.
  • labels: Yahoo only provides standard folders, ie one e-mail < => on folder. It’s much easier to organize one’s inbox when one e-mail can be place in several “folders” (labels)
  • POP and e-mail forwarding: Yahoo offers POP and forwarding as a paid option (about $20 a year for both). Note that this isn’t so bad if you are over the free quota of Gmail: Yahoo’s $20/year for POP + forwaring isn’t as bad as Gmail’s $50 a year for 200GB storage.
  • conversations: threading e-mails and their replies is a neat way to organize the inbox and better follow discussions. But actually, conversations have their drawbacks. Notably: slowness again and encouragement not to control quoted text (making e-mails expand quite a lot and look like crap to people not using Gmail because you quote so much junk) or title. Overall, conversation view doesn’t seem that paramount and I found that it’s much easier to ditch than tabbed e-mail browsing.
  • filters: Yahoo Mail has filters too, but they aren’t as feature-rich and editing them isn’t as comfortable. They’re still much usable, but not as good IMO as Gmail’s.
  • undo mail sending: that’s not a standard Gmail feature but one you can enable via the Labs. Still, being able to undo the sending of an e-mail for 10 to 30 seconds after hitting the send button is neat.

Both seem good or decent on:

  • spam filter: really, lots of things have been said about Gmail’s spam filter being one (or several) steps ahead. Well, it turns out that Yahoo’s is quite as good now (and Hotmail’s, too although that’s off-topic). Don’t listen to the fanboys, just try it for yourself. And remember, both have some weird false positives sometimes, so don’t forget to check your spam folder once in a while…
  • the e-mail search: it’s actually a bit disappointing for Gmail (I remember that one of the original mottoes of Gmail was to “have the power of Google search in your e-mails”, that clearly is untrue), but still I suppose it’s decent. And for Yahoo it’s about the same without the unkept promises, and again, with the better speed.

Both are crap on:

I can’t really think of anything. If someone was to combine the strengths of both of those, we’d end up with a killer webmail I think 😉

So, which one to chose? It depends one what aspects you value the most, I guess. I value privacy, and the unlimited storage is fairly useful too (in my old Gmail account, I’m at 80% of the free quota…), so Yahoo would seem good. But their rogue anti junk-sending protection that can block you from sending e-mail for several days for no reason is a massively major pain in the ass (is it even possible to not send a single e-mail for a day?). I think I’ll have a go at Hotmail, now…

Quick update (2014-02-03)

This post is getting old now. Since then, both Yahoo and Gmail have pushed a new, worse interface. And I’ve stopped using both (that’s the beauty of a e-mail: I get to change my provider whenever I want to with very limited trouble) so I obviously won’t make a new detailed comparison. Just thought I’d mention that Yahoo removed tabbed browsing and added a quota (of 1 TB), and their new UI wastes a lot of space and make it harder to view the folder list. Long story short, they imported a lot of the bad design choices of Gmail into their own new interface. And I also noticed that the much appraised Gmail’s spam filter was sending a lot of work-related e-mail (my lab’s mailing list, if you have to know) into oblivion.
I recently posted about my new e-mail provider, even though I keep Yahoo and Hotmail as archivers, and Gmail as a redirection for those who persist in writing to me there…

Posted in Google, Yahoo.

11 Responses

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  1. Eric says

    I’m a longtime fan of Yahoo, though I also have had a gmail account. For me, it’s all about the interface. Yahoo has a very clean, functional, logical interface. With gmail, I have to hunt endlessly for the stinkin’ Reply button! And it’s really ugly, too: Just text on a page. Kinda like Craigslist. It’s like Google didn’t bother to hire designers or something. Gmail looks like it was designed by a bunch of developers. Try telling this to people, though. They don’t want to hear it. All they hear is that Gmail sounds “cool”. Never mind that Yahoo is better designed (and honestly, that’s 90% of the battle), and offers more features. People like Gmail because of the name.

  2. David Dernoncourt says

    Yeah. Anything by “Google” just seems to get a massive love bonus from the average Joe… no matter if it’s slow as hell, if it’s not as user-friendly as others and if privacy is rubbish… The new UI of Gmail is even worse. Putting the labels within a tiny iframe (not sure if it’s really an iframe, but it sure looks like one) that makes Firefox lag massively…

    Still, I really need to add Hotmail in the comparison: that’s what I’m using now, because unfortunately Yahoo has a massive weakness that only got worse since I wrote this post: the outgoing e-mail filter is paranoid, and it seems it has permanently blocked me (and the support sucks: when I write to them they just unblock me without actually fixing the issue or whitelisting me, so after sending 10 e-mails I’m reblocked again… so now I don’t bother anymore…).

  3. David Dernoncourt says

    A little addendum: to be fair, I think I should also mention how FREAKING OFTEN Yahoo Mail is down (like, 24h every month or so), while Gmail is almost never (as far as I remember, about 10h a few years ago, and a couple of hours within the last year).

  4. Aaron says

    YahooMail’s interface is clean, intuitive, and much more attractive than Gmail. As another commenter noted, it comes down to branding over functionality and ease-of-use.

    Why Gmail’s designers ever thought it would be useful to have duplicate versions of the email (one to read, one to reply) is mind-boggling. I have to use Gmail for work, and I hate it.

    Gmail and other Google products are really quite clunky and anti-intuitive. To be fair, when it comes to search Google’s homepage is far superior to Yahoo’s, which is completely overrun with graphics, icons, and headlines I couldn’t care less about.

  5. Harley H. says

    I too have looked for alternatives to Gmail for a long time. The privacy and the seemingly infinite amount of caching that they do on your email really bugs me. That said, if you have an android phone, you unfortunately really can’t get away without one.

    I tried a lot of different alternatives. I needed either IMAP or POP, preferrably free, easy to use and find things. Yahoo was ok, but no free pop/imap access. I tried using for a while, although I like their interface no pop/imap either. I have been using AOL believe it or not for about 9 months now and it’s not too bad. Granted most of the time I am using it on the phone, or in Claws on Ubuntu. But I haven’t had issues with the server being down. They do have a spam filter on the smtp access that occasionally goes a little haywire and I have to go onto the site and tell them that I am a real person, but thats only happened about 3 times. Free pop/imap access. The initial aol homepage looks terrible, something right off of the TMZ website, but the webmail interface itsn’t too terrible. I have only played around with hotmail, which I think is going bye bye and is only live mail soon. I should probably make another account and give them a go. For now though I am probably going to stick with AOL, since I dual boot precise and win 7.

    And, I have a different take on the google interface than most though. In my opinion, after apple went with the elegance/appearance over function, everbody else wanted to jump on board and get a piece of the action. I have owned macs for a long time (early 90s – since I was in HS), but my current MBP is dual booting two systems that are nothing close to the Lion that it is supposed to have. Apple’s idea that people want less.. Less interface, less choice, less use-ability to make it more streamlined and more user friendly is just absurd to me. There are a lot of people that had, and have bought in, even if it meant (for the first few iterations of devices) that they couldn’t run more than one app at a time, after all what a silly idea.

    Anywho, it just boggles my mind really. But there are a lot of people that are more of what I think of as power users. This is the reason that sites like reddit, craigslist, fark and others have continued to do well even in the face of a really butt ugly, text heavy layout. I think its more powerful, and better to navigate. It pains me to see ubuntu going in the apple direction also.

  6. David Dernoncourt says

    About that terrible evolution of Ubuntu, that’s one of the reasons why I switched to OpenSUSE (the other being that the 2 Kubuntu dist-upgrades that I attempted miserably failed, ending up in a full reinstall), which also comes with a rolling release (Tumbleweed) that actually works fine (no problem when moving from 12.1 to Tumbleweed, nor when tons of Tumbleweed packages were updated during the 12.1=>12.2 transition).

    About the webmail, I’m actually looking for yet another webmail, since 1) Yahoo seems to have definitely blocked my account from sending (the support morons only know how to re-enable it temporarily, after which it gets auto-blocked again 10 sent e-mail later…) and 2) I’m not really found of the new Hotmail interface (, because they like Apple removed/made poorly accessible some very useful functions. So I might give a try at AOL, once I figure out what my password there is ^^ (looks like I already have an account there but totally forgot the password :s ).
    On a side note, this post was written before the new Gmail and Hotmail interfaces.

  7. David Dernoncourt says

    I’ve now been using Yahoo Mail and Hotmail on a very regular basis for about 9 months, I think it’s time for an update featuring the 3 big ones. Not sure how long it will take me to write it, so here are some spoilers:
    – again, there’s no clear winner
    – my favorite would be Hotmail. The old version of it, actually (so I’ll have to update this again when they force the update on everyone…)

  8. Franck Dernoncourt says

    Yahoo! mail space is now 1TB :/ (

    • David Dernoncourt says

      On the other hand, even though I believed I was filling it quite unreasonably, I’m still only at 0.6% of my quota…

      • Franck Dernoncourt says

        I’m at 0 % since Yahoo deleted as I didn’t connect often enough……

      • David Dernoncourt says

        lol, which reminds me I wonder what’s the acceptable inactivity period. I heard a few months ago that they were even making available for new registration old, expired logins (leading to those new accounts sometimes receiving e-mails intended for the previous owner – sometimes a privacy or even security concern).
        Anyway I still connect there “often enough”, because on some sites I use their OpenID authentification (or maybe it’s not OpenID, but some sites still do allow Yahoo! login.

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