Just over a month ago, we told you about “Yahoo Mail users in uprising over system changes.” The super-short capsule summary of the story is this: in October, Yahoo drastically changed its email service, and said the changes are wonderful improvements over the old standard. Actual Yahoo users looked at the changes and said, “Yuck. This is awful; please bring back our old email service.” Yahoo spokespeople reiterated, “No, really, they’re great changes and everyone loves ’em. You love ’em.” Customers re-reiterated, “No, actually, they’re awful and we hate them,” and so on.
And now, a month later, a corporate memo leaked out of Yahoo HQ reveals that Yahoo’s new email interface is so bad, Yahoo’s own employees don’t even like it.
The memo, signed by Jeff Bonforte, SVP Communications Products and Randy Roumillat, CIO, might actually have been written with the intention of being leaked to the media. Here’s what it actually said to Yahoo employees, though:
Earlier this year we asked you to move to Yahoo Mail for your corporate email account. 25% of you made the switch (thank you). But even if we used the most generous of grading curves (say, the one from organic chemistry), we have clearly failed in our goal to move our co-workers to Yahoo Mail.
It’s time for the remaining 75% to make the switch. Beyond the practical benefits of giving feedback to your colleagues on the Mail team, as a company it’s a matter of principle to use the products we make. (BTW, same for Search.)
Fair enough. Of course, a cynic could counter: as a company it’s a matter of principle to make products we actually want to use without being nagged into doing so. No matter; the Yahoo corporate message went on to list and dismiss some possible objections people might have to giving up their old email in exchange for Yahoo’s new offering, then continued:
“First, it doesn’t feel like we are asking you to abandon some glorious place of communications nirvana. At this point in your life, Outlook may be familiar, which we can often confuse with productive or well designed [sic].”
True. By the same token, though: At this point in your life Yahoo may be different, which we can often confuse with better or well-thought-out.
“Certainly, we can admire the application for its survival, an anachronism of the now defunct 90s PC era, a pre-web program written at a time when NT Server terrorized the data center landscape with the confidence of a T-Rex born to yuppie dinosaur parents who fully bought into the illusion of their son’s utter uniqueness because the big-mouthed, tiny-armed monster infant could mimic the gestures of The Itsy-Bitsy Pterodactyl. There was a similar outcry when we moved away from Outlook’s suite-mates in the Microsoft Office dreadnaught. But whether it’s familiarity, laziness or simple stubbornness dressed in a cloak of Ayn Randian Objectivism, the time has come to move on, commrade [sic].”
We too are fans of overdone and somewhat hallucinatory metaphors which is why, when we read that, we imagined Yahoo executives as a starving but wily Coyote, futilely chasing the Road Runner of Relevancy through the Desert of Internet Popularity before running off the edge of the Cliff of Not Understanding What the Hell Ayn Rand has to do with Reluctance to Switch to an Inferior Email Product, and falling with a crash down into the Canyon of Cluelessness.
The Yahoo memo goes on to say: “Using corp mail from the Y Mail web interface is remarkably feature rich.” The next two paragraphs list various features along with reassurances that said features are wonderful and extremely popular. “We have been testing this feature with select users in and out of the company and the response has been fantastic: 'Whoa!', 'Amazing', 'Already in love with it. Woot!' and, my favorite, 'So nicely integrated that it appears as if it’s always been there. I already can’t imagine it not being there again'.”
How wonderful! If the new and improved Yahoo Mail is even half as fantastic as the corporate memo claims, we can’t imagine why only a quarter of Yahoo’s own employees have gone along with it, let alone Yahoo customers whose salaries and job security don’t require them to support Yahoo products.