It's been a little while since I last wrote about my 30 day Webmail challenge and several people have emailed to ask about the next installment. Wait no longer!

Here's a summary of my status so far using the new Yahoo! Mail Beta for my work email and Google's Gmail for my personal mail. I'll conclude with some themes that are common to both.

Yahoo! Mail

I've reported several new bugs to the Y! Mail team since I last wrote about the product. There's a new one I need to report that involves intermittent drag-and-drop problems. It's hard to describe what's required to reproduce it, so it's probably going to be one of those "come by and I'll show you" bug reports.

I recently discovered a feature that blew me away by really demonstrating the team's attention to detail. When you run a search, the results pop up in a separate tab. You can then re-sort the results based on any field you like (subject, date, folder (the search covers all folders)). I noticed that one message in the results was in my "inbox" rather than in my "yahoo" folder. Not thinking about the fact that I was in the "search results" tab, I decided to drag it to the right folder.

It took me a second or two to realize that IT WORKED. I was then suitably impressed.


Gmail still produces more errors than I'd like, but the frequency has decreased since I last complained about it. I'm still frustrated by the inability to sort search results. Other than those problems, it's going pretty well. I'm reasonably happy with Gmail.


Using webmail exclusively means that when I'm on a plane with my latptop (as I was last weekend), I cannot catch up on reading, organizing, or writing email. But that turns out to be a blessing in disguise. I now have time to catch up on the many magazines and books that have piled up at home.

A downside to web based email is the lack of integration with an address directory. At Yahoo we have an internal LDAP server that makes name/address auto-completion work great in Outlook, Thunderbird,, etc. I miss having that. It adds a tiny barrier to emailing someone I don't communicate with frequently.

The keyboard shortcuts are different for Gmail and Y! Mail. This is annoying. It reminds me of the Windows 3.xx days when every app had it's own shortcuts (for the most part) and there was very little standardization. I wonder what it's gonna take to get CUA standards (or whatever) for rich Web applications.

Posted by jzawodn at October 19, 2005 02:58 PM

Reader Comments
# Toivo Lainevool said:

"The keyboard shortcuts are different for Gmail and Y! Mail."

I wonder if a Greasmonkey script could take care of this?

on October 19, 2005 03:47 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I suspect that GM may be the short term solution to this problem.

on October 19, 2005 03:51 PM
# Stephen Duncan said:

Note that Bloglines implemented keyboard shortcuts, and seemed to base them on Google's GMail and Reader. Google may end up setting the de facto keyboard shortcut settings for the web...

on October 19, 2005 05:18 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

That's a funny way of saying it, since the baseline shortcuts really have their roots in the "vi" editor--probably something even older than that...

on October 19, 2005 05:24 PM
# Hasan Diwan said:

I use gmail for the express reason that it allows me to have POP3 access to my mail, whereas Y! does not.

on October 19, 2005 06:29 PM
# Stephen Duncan said:

True enough. But since vi shortcuts are hardly common to most users, I'm not sure that they both simultaneously got them from vi, rather than indirectly through Blogger.

Of course, my knowledge of vi shortcuts is limted to i, x, dd, and ESC+wq, so it didn't occur to me...

on October 19, 2005 06:30 PM
# dan isaacs said:

I'm glad that I am not alone in my annoyance at the lack of "sort" in gmail.

on October 19, 2005 07:08 PM
# Jesse Andrews said:

When can others play with the Yahoo Mail Beta? My wife uses yahoo as her email (even upgraded to the full account) and would like a more advanced webmail. We talked about moving her to gmail, but all her friends know her yahoo address.

on October 19, 2005 10:34 PM
# Dave said:

> intermittent drag-and-drop problems

I assume you're in Firefox. If you drag a message and initally click on whitespace (rather than the text e.g. name or subject) then this will fail in Firefox < 1.5. Can't wait for 1.5 to come out ;)

Next time you search:
- from:jeremy
- subject:mysql
- "mail beta"

on October 20, 2005 12:53 AM
# Guillaume said:

Well I hope GMail won't set up an standards of any sort....Yahoo introduced those shortcuts long before

on October 20, 2005 01:41 AM
# Gudmundur Karlsson said:

Would it be a such big problem to allow you to work offline with your laptop on a plane?
Just download a caching proxy server just for Yahoo web mail that holds at least a portion of your MRU mail up to a configurable size (in most cases your laptop can store all your mail).
Then it would automatically sync when you get back on-line.

on October 20, 2005 05:55 AM
# martin said:

I think Google Desktop Search allows you to search in your Gmail messages while offline:
'And search for messages even when you're offline using the new Google Desktop.'

Maybe you can read them too?

on October 20, 2005 06:42 AM
# grumpY! said:

gmail is faster than ymail, and i don't just mean in startup times.

also, i like gmail's design ethos better: ymail better emulates a desktop app, but is the point of a web app to simply look like and act like a desktop app? while i was impressed at how ymail emulated the look of a desktop client, i now think this reflects a fractured design sense. gmail is a better *web app*, regardless of its resemblance to a desktop app or not. drag and drop to me is not interesting. folders are not interesting. we have already moved on to filtering and tagging, and gmail implements these ideas better.

also ymail's limit on filters is annoying. why does yahoo care so much if i have twenty good filters? filters are expensive? too bad! its annoying that yahoo only lifts these lameo limits in the face of competition, not proactively, even though they are well understood internally.

what i hope is that yahoo does not abandon the "non-rich" interface...with some serious tweaking it could be a gmail competitor.

on October 20, 2005 09:43 AM
# Adam said:

grumpY!, I agree with most of your musings above.

I've also played a ton with both the new Y! Mail beta and the Gmail beta, and while I'm very impressed with the fluidity and desktop-emulation of Y!'s offering, the Gmail service is still faster and more efficient... at least for me. Also, the fact that Y! has decided to stick with folders may comfort oldtimers and non-geeks, but I think it's really holding back the potential of their service.

I do plan on writing up a much more detailed review on my own blog soon :)

on October 21, 2005 01:56 AM
# Murali said:

oh man ! using webmail for Official stuff without directly hooking up to an Address book directory can really suck !

on October 28, 2005 11:31 PM
# Grant W Laird Jr said:

I dont know why you guys care so much about free email like Ymail and Gmail. They are free -- what do you expect?

I stopped using Ymail long time ago -- stick to true pop3 email with Outlook or openwebmail.



on October 29, 2005 09:45 PM
# William Nathania said:

Grant,it's true if they give it for free, we cant ask them too much. but they will really appreciate if we give them comment to improve their service...and who knows, free email will be better than paid email

on December 22, 2005 11:01 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.