Yahoo’s Ymail: Don’t really get it

by Mathew on June 19, 2008 · 16 comments

I was talking with someone at work about Yahoo’s much-heralded launch of two new email domains, Rocketmail (which is actually an old domain resurrected) and Ymail, and despite much back-and-forth about it, I still couldn’t really see the point, and in fact still don’t. I mean, I’m familiar with the rationale given by Yahoo, which is that there are lots of people out there who haven’t signed up for email because they can’t get their name, or their favourite nickname, or whatever. And maybe there’s some truth to that. But how many of those people could there possibly be? Is this really a market segment that is crying out for Yahoo’s help?

A couple of other things that struck me: 1) Are people really going to switch that easily from cathy1034@yahoo.com or whatever (or cathy1034@hotmail.com) to a new Ymail or Rocketmail address? Every time I’ve switched from one email to another it’s been a gigantic pain in the ass, and I have vowed to never do it again — there are all those people you have to spam with your new mail. It’s a nightmare. That’s why I got a Gmail address in the first place, so that when I changed Internet providers I could just redirect my mail to that address. I personally know of several people who pay two ISPs, simply because they don’t want to give up their old email address.

And those are the old folks. Point number 2) Anyone younger than about 30 doesn’t seem interested in having an email address period, let alone caring whether it’s hermanzweibel@rocketmail.com or whatever. My teenaged daughters and their friends never use email anyway — they text message (in which case all you need is a phone number) or they use Facebook messages as a way of communicating. I send them email and they never get it. Do they have email addresses? Yes, and they are a combination of their names, underscores, numbers and nicknames, and so on — and they couldn’t care less. Not exactly a huge market opportunity there either, I wouldn’t say.

In a lot of ways, Yahoo seems to be fighting a war that has already been won — which, given some of the other things that have been going on at the company over the past couple of years, probably isn’t all that surprising. I was trying to think of an analogy for this latest campaign, and it’s a little like the company has decided to announce a new kind of typewriter where the keys don’t stick as much, or a better version of the pay phone, or a new video-tape recorder. In other words, WTF?

  • http://3rdparty.ca 3rdparty

    The safest email address practice is to register your own domain (on the cheap) and then either use google apps for your domain, or set it to forward to whatever service you like. That way if you ever need to change email providers in a hurry (or if gmail locks you out) you can just redirect the forwarder.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That’s an excellent point, 3rdparty — which is exactly what I do with
    @mathewingram.com.

  • LH

    I switched to a yahoo e-mail address back when @home went under. I swore to never have another ISP based e-mail address, and I’ve never used one since.

    I only wonder how they’re going to handle POP access. One nice thing with the gmail/apps solution is I can set these up with Thunderbird as my client, and have a nice all-around solution for e-mail (not a fan of the Gmail web interface). I’m actually in the process of switching from a Yahoo Hosting account for my business domain to my own server with the Gmail/Apps solution for the e-mail.

  • http://www.RohanJayasekera.com/ Rohan Jayasekera

    Mathew, I see this as a bit of an excuse for them to get some “normal” press as a counterbalance to all the negative stuff — and it worked, mostly.

    I agree that the addition of the two domains is pretty lame. As my colleague James Koole remarked to me, while he can’t be james@yahoo.com because that’s gone, in a few hours james@ymail.com and james@rocketmail.com will be gone too! james4703@ymail.com isn’t a whole lot better than james830362@yahoo.com.

    I don’t think that what teenagers do today is representative of what they will do tomorrow. Eventually people grow up and have to start communicating with people other than their friends and family, and unless they wish to be interrupted by those people, or let them into their Facebook, email will be how they want to be contacted.

    Those willing to pay a small amount of money have more routes to a decent email address (i.e. without an unwieldy suffix) than those who consider only the free services. Registering your own domain like mathewingram.com is one way, but there’s another, less well known, alternative: there are surname-based domains available for shared use. For instance, you can be mathew@ingram.net or mathew@ingram.org or mathew@ingram.to (or even ingram@mathew.com if you want that), because all those addresses are available through the Tucows Personal Names Service (disclosure: I am the product manager). This service is sold through Tucows resellers and is also available at NetIdentity.com (where it was invented; Tucows bought NetIdentity). There are around 40,000 surname-based domains available, including those three for Ingram — nothing for Jayasekera, though!

    Rohan Jayasekera

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks, Rohan — I agree that what teenagers do now may not be
    representative of what they might do tomorrow. My point was that they
    aren’t a great market for this type of product right now, and yet they
    are a very desirable advertising demographic that you might think
    Yahoo would be interested in. Thanks for the info on Tucows’
    surname-based domain service.

  • http://jasonkolb.com jasonkolb

    I would also add that it may not be a good idea to chain yourself to a company that appears headed for the dead pool or at least massive upheaval. At least with Google you know your account and your data will be around for a while.

  • http://katecarruthers.com/ kcarruthers

    Think you’re on the right track here, the ‘so what’ factor re this new service is almost non-existent.

    Also the switching cost (in effort) is high for email addresses, so you might as well stay where you are.

    BTW some anecdotal info about email and under-30′s here at http://carruthk.blogspot.com/2008/06/un-email-generation.html

  • http://thebankwatch.com colin

    Indeed … yahoo mail and hotmail are so convoluted to use compared to gmail its not even funny. Rather than create a new domain, why not rebuild the service and make it usable.

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  • http://schreibendepot.wordpress.com Kenneth Burchfiel

    People under thirty don’t care about e-mail? Are you kidding me? Electronic mail is my primary method of communication these days, specifically because it’s not connected to any social networking fad.

    If you disagree, you can always e-mail me at Sleet@ymail.com . :-) Or Switzerland@ymail.com. Or KJB3@ymail.com. Or KIAD@ymail.com. Or…

  • http://www.nirmalnatarajan.com Nirmal Natarajan

    Do people under 30 not use email?
    Probably you should educate your daughters not to be odd out of the bunch.

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  • Benny

    People under 30 better start using email.

    It is connected to many other things in general and in life!

  • mmm

    I agree. I signed up for ymail, only to realize that the “y” looks very much like a “g” when typed or written. Many people take a quick glance at my ymail address and see it as gmail. I wonder how many of my emails have gone to whoever has the same username at gmail? I don't know why Yahoo did this.

  • mmm

    I agree. I signed up for ymail, only to realize that the “y” looks very much like a “g” when typed or written. Many people take a quick glance at my ymail address and see it as gmail. I wonder how many of my emails have gone to whoever has the same username at gmail? I don't know why Yahoo did this.

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