Roughly 60 days ago, I began My 30 Day Gmail and Yahoo! Mail Challenge. Obviously it lasted longer than 30 days, but the experience has been very, very useful. I've learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of both services.
Part of me wonders how many Gmail engineers have forced themselves to live off of Yahoo! Mail for a month. And I wonder how many Yahoo! Mail hackers spent a month exclusively on Gmail.
Anyway, here's the lowdown.
Before the challenge began, I was using Thunderbird for my personal mail, with a copy of every message also going to my Gmail account. When away from my notebook, I'd use Gmail as a substitute. Switching to use it full-time wasn't hard at all, since I was quite comfortable with the interface and knew the keyboard shortcuts quite well.The bad:
- I'd kill for a keyboard shortcut for "move message to trash" since I have a fair amount of mail that's not spam but also not worth saving.
- Every once in a while I wish for folders instead of labels. I think the label interface is still a bit klunky but can't articulate what's wrong with it.
- Gmail is fast, mostly easy to use without a mouse, stable, and reliable.
- While the message grouping isn't true threading, it's the next best thing. It's better than any other web-based alternative.
I've decided to continue using Gmail as my primary vehicle for sending and receiving personal email. A copy of everything still goes to my server (and then to Thunderbird) just in case.
Yahoo! Mail Beta
Before the challenge began, I was using Thunderbird exclusively for my work email. When away from my laptop, I simply didn't send or receive much of any work related email. (Occasionally I'd send from my personal account.) Switching to use it full-time took some adjustment. Most of my struggles can be traced to two things: (1) the sheer volume of email I get as a result of being on tons of lists, and (2) the changing nature of the Yahoo! Mail beta.The bad:
- The UI latency for many operations is just high enough to be annoying. I attribute much of this to the fact that it's still being built out and optimized. I attribute less of this to the actual design choices made behind the scenes (such as a lack of queuing for message status changes).
- Stability was a problem some days. There were times that I simply couldn't access my inbox for 15 or 20 minutes. Again, this will certainly vanish before full deployment. But I was using the product for my day to day work, so I was sensitive to it.
- The UI is more mouse intensive than Gmail, so it simply took longer to move messages around. With a lower mail volume (think "typical home user"), I'd likely never notice.
- Uploading attachments seems slower and less integrated than in Gmail. Gmail does it in-line while Yahoo! Mail uses a little pop-up window.
- No threading. The team is well aware of this need, trust me. :-)
- The interface is more like a traditional mail client, giving me a 3 pane view and folders. I'm still quite fond of living that way and suspect that the larger population is well. It just "feels right."
- Most of my earlier small gripes have been fixed.
- The search is quite good. It even knows how to search inside most attachments.
The Yahoo! Mail Beta has evolved a fair amount since I began using it. It's a good product that I'd likely continue using if I didn't get so much email at work. But without a UI that's better tuned to "power users", I've gone back to using Thunderbird. A copy of every message still goes to my Yahoo! Mail account just in case I need web-based access. I'd have no trouble using Yahoo! Mail for my personal email.
Just for the record, the internal version of Yahoo! Mail has a few features that even the outside beta testers do not see. Some of them will likely be surprising...
- About the new Yahoo! Mail
- My 30 Day GMail and Yahoo! Mail Challenge
- Yahoo! Mail Tips and Wants, part #1
- Gmail Tips and Wants, part #1
- 30 Day Webmail Challenge Update
Have you switched to web-based mail recently? If so, how's it working out?
Update: RSS is Now Integrated into Yahoo Mail and Alerts. It's one of those secret features I mentioned, but nobody told me we'd be announcing it yesterday. Grr. I'd have waited and included a lot more info here had I known. :-(
Posted by jzawodn at November 28, 2005 08:21 PM