Once again, Yahoo has decided to “improve” its email system by taking some of the least-popular features of Google's Gmail and adopting them for itself.
Last October, you may recall, Yahoo Mail underwent a complete revision that basically turned it into a Gmail knockoff, emphasizing Gmail's most annoying (from a customer's perspective) traits: if different emails have the same subject heading, don't keep them separate; combine them all into a single unbreakable thread! And for Zod's sake, do not let customers organize individual emails into different folders as they see fit; replace that with a modern, streamlined, one-size-fits-all approach.
(The new, improved Gmail-knockoff Yahoo email was so bad, even Yahoo's own employees didn't want to use it. Yahoo executives responded by releasing an internal memo that basically insulted all the employees who were too hidebound or narrow-minded to appreciate the wonderful awesomeness of the new Gmail-knockoff Yahoo email.)
But that was almost a year ago. Now Yahoo has decided to adopt another unpopular Gmail feature: content-scanning, specifically to promote various apps.
If you use Yahoo Email to buy apps, whether from Apple or Google, Yahoo knows about it already, since Apple and Google both emailed you a receipt. So it's no surprise that Yahoo intends to start scanning to contents of those app-receipt emails, and plans to suggest you make new app purchases based on previous ones.
Not that Yahoo is in any way unique; almost every website and Internet-based service funded by advertising uses targeted advertising to do it. You already see targeted ads on Amazon (“If you bought this book, you might like that book too”). Google ads (in Gmail and on blogs and websites) focus on target words and have for years.
Twitter and Facebook both advertise targeted apps, too. (Facebook's app advertising, based on previous app purchases, is presumably more lucrative than its standard keyword advertising, which pushes ads and recommended links based on words you typed with no consideration of context: if you post or “like” a statement such as “I think Congressman Dungheap is the most incompetent and awful politician in American history,” there's a strong chance Facebook's ads will suggest you “Like” Dungheap's public page or donate to Dungheap's re-election campaign.)
The fact that Yahoo is trying another way to make money off its free-to-end-user email shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the old (by Internet standards) maxim: “If you're not paying anything, you're not the customer; you're what they're selling.”