TECH

Yahoo Mail Change Prompts Outrage From Longtime Customers

10/16/2013 11:42 am ET | Updated Oct 16, 2013
AP

A lot of people are unhappy with the recent redesign of Yahoo Mail.

Since a major overhaul of the tech giant's mail service last week, many customers have not been shy about voicing their displeasure. A petition on Change.org titled "Bring back the old version of Yahoo Mail!" has more than 2,900 signatures. A Facebook group called "Yahoo's New Mail Fail" has 400 members. And there are more than 40,000 votes on a Yahoo Mail forum asking, nicely, for Yahoo to bring back tabs, a feature that allowed people to have multiple emails open at once.

"Imagine my surprise when I woke up one day and found everything in my mail was different," Alec Permison, a 13-year Yahoo Mail customer who owns a web consulting business, wrote to The Huffington Post. Permison, 39, said that after the redesign, the "send" button didn't work when using Chrome, fonts were difficult to read and the Android app no longer worked for him.

"I was just like, 'What happened?!?'" Permison wrote. "I get that Yahoo wanted to mix things up for their birthday. But this was a surprise party nobody wanted. When you've accumulated users over two decades you can't just give them all a heart attack one day because you feel like it. I had no idea this was coming."

Yahoo Mail is used by 289 million people around the world each month, making it the second largest email provider after Gmail, according to Comscore numbers quoted by the Associated Press.

Like Gmail, which Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer worked on when she was at Google, Yahoo's new email has a "conversations" feature users can turn on to group together messages with the same subject. Also like Gmail, people can choose from a number of images and photographs -- called "themes" -- to customize their background.

But perhaps what has most upset people is the loss of the tabs feature.

"Having to close a draft in order to look at something else is a big pain," Karen Kocik, a 60-year-old contractor and software engineer in Charlottesville, Va., wrote in an email. "Every time you do one function you have to completely back out of it before you do a new one," she later added over the phone.

The redesign of Yahoo Mail is the latest major product overhaul to come under Mayer, who has been at the helm of the company for just over a year. In her time at Yahoo, she has overseen the redesign of Flickr, Yahoo's weather app and the home page. As is frequently the case when Internet and tech companies redesign products or services -- such as with Apple's new operating system and redesigns of Facebook -- many of the changes have been met with criticism. Flickr had its share of negative reviews, and the company's new logo that was unveiled last month was not received particularly well.

In an email to The Huffington Post, Yahoo said it's listening to its customers.

"We deeply value how much our users care about Yahoo and are constantly engaging with our products," Yahoo said in a statement. "We recognize that this is a lot of change and are listening to all of the community feedback. Additionally, we're actively measuring user feedback so we can continuously make improvements."

But for some people, even those who've been loyal to Yahoo Mail for years, that's not enough.

After the redesign, Joan Hauck said she was no longer able to send email from her desktop computer. Hauck, who's been using Yahoo Mail for 15 years, has a computer that runs on an older Microsoft operating system, Windows Vista, which is supposed to work with the redesign.

"Basically, I'm dead in the water," said Hauck, who's 74 and needs easy access to her email for her volunteer job. She said she's lost her ability to spell check, scroll up and down and change font sizes, although her email still works on her laptop, which runs the newer Windows 7.

"It has slowed me down. It has made me angry and nervous and frustrated," she said. "How can they just arbitrarily force you to take it? I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for an update. I didn't click on anything."

Hauck initially told HuffPost that she'd stick with Yahoo Mail and update Windows on her computer. But she's now decided to switch email providers.

"I was so mad I didn't sleep at all that night," she said, referring to the time she found out about the redesign.

Kocik, the contractor and software engineer, didn't give Yahoo much of a chance, even though she'd been a customer for 10 years. She switched to another email provider only two days after the debut of the redesign.

"Yahoo lost a customer."

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