So says WSJ personal technology columnist Walter Mossberg in his review of Yahoo Mail today. He argues that Yahoo mail is closer to the desktop email program experience which most people know and prefer, and that Gmail, in contrast, is "quirky and limited". But most surprising, Mr Mossberg uses his review of Yahoo email for a surprising attack on Google:
On several key issues, Google's engineers have decreed that familiar email practices are no longer useful, and have substituted approaches they prefer, arrogantly denying users any choice... Other email programs... permit users to choose. Not Gmail, where "option" is a term too rarely employed, except in reference to employee compensation.
The full Mossberg review is here.
I'm sure Gmail will get better and better, and will eventually adopt the new programming techniques that allow desktop-like ease of use. But I'm not sure Google's arrogance will ever make room for user preferences on things like folders or ads, or how emails are grouped.
- Mossberg is influential. Does this signify the beginning of a shift in sentiment against Google? That would be significant for Google and its stock.
- Yahoo's to lose. Yahoo has a vastly larger number of web email users than Google. Yahoo doesn't actually need to provide a better product than Google, just one that is good enough to stop its users defecting. The bar isn't that high: switching email addresses is a hassle.
- Some Yahoo revenues depend on email. Yahoo charges $20 per year to double the storage capacity of Yahoo mail from 1 GB to 2 GB and to remove the ads. Yahoo has recently been losing users of its free Web email to Google, reducing the chances that those users will upgrade to the paid service. This upgrade restores Yahoo's chances.
- Email matters. As web email becomes more tightly integrated with instant messaging, online address books, blog publishing and personalized home pages, the dominant web email and instant messaging providers will be able to leverage their market power into the rest of the "bundle". That's why Yahoo, Google and MSN care so much about Web email.