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 firstname.lastname@example.org or whatever (or email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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?