Yahoo! Mail Wackos Need to Move On

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Yahoo! (YHOO) Mail fanatics now teeter on the border between Obama birther inanity and tech company observer irrelevancy.

I have people on Twitter (TWTR) challenging me to take the test and use Yahoo! Mail for a week, as if I am missing some elusive secret that, yes, most Web-based mail programs suck. Including Yahoo!'s.

It's hardly an exception.

And I have never claimed it is.

In fact, I have always been indifferent to Yahoo! Mail, Hotmail, any of Microsoft's (MSFT) professional solutions and any other email account you access via the Web. If you're serious about email -- as in the email you send and receive is in some way, shape or form important -- you're, pardon my blunt edge, an idiot for relying on a web-based platform in the first place.

That should be the opening segue into any discussion over the dual issues a tortured few continue to obsess over with regards to Yahoo! Mail:

  • Generally, the new Yahoo! Mail design stinks (Newsflash: The old one stunk as well!)
  • The recent tech-related outage Yahoo! Mail experienced is an outrage and should be viewed as a harbinger of doom for the company.

Most of us use Web-based accounts such as Yahoo! Mail for junk mail, as the default email address to use to sign up for "stuff" and as a means of introduction to people we would like to get to know.

For instance, I am working on a story. I find someday I want to talk to on LinkedIn (LNKD). The person replies. So I have duplicate messages from them -- one in my LNKD account, one in my Yahoo! Mail account. I'm not going to rely on either to keep the exchange safe and secure so I move it to one of the accounts I access through Apple's (AAPL) desktop Mail program.

Of course, something could go wrong with the mechanisms that deliver email to programs such as Mail or MSFT's Outlook. Absolutely. But it seems to me that you have quite a bit more confidence and control if you're a) not using a mass market type email address and b) backing up your email multiple ways. That's why desktop platforms and newer, really great email applications exist.

Many of us keep our music in "collections" on sites such as Rdio. If you think your virtual collection is akin to milk crates full of vinyl, think again.

But, whatever ... I'm not here to make excuses for Yahoo! Mail. It sucks. Always has. You just shouldn't be using it for anything that really matters. Take the same steps to safeguard your email as you would anything else that matters.

Did Marissa Mayer screw up? She sure did. And she knows it. But the whole thing is overblown for, generally speaking, one of two reasons:

  • A decent size swath of people consider Web-based mail a birthright. Probably because it's one of the first, if not the first thing most of us used consistently when we first got online, there's a false sense of self-entitlement that perfectly-operating web-based mail should come along with birth certificates.
  • The Mail debacle is the perfect issue for Marissa Mayer haters to latch onto, sensationalize and beat into the ground as part of their petty and increasingly shallow efforts to discredit her.

Call me a fanboy. That's fine. That sort of thing is territory for wildly successful and widely respected, yet curiously defensive and insecure tech reporters. If I'm a fanboy, so be it. But, as Cramer likes to drill into us, I'm focused. You must stay focused.

With my eye on the ball, I'm paying more attention these days to Yahoo!'s video strategy. Because it actually matters.

Yahoo! Mail is but one gateway to other Yahoo! properties and content.

Roughly 1% of its users were impacted by the recent outage. This vocal minority yells loudly and with frequency, fabricating the false notion of widespread outrage and backlash against Yahoo!. I'm telling you it just doesn't exist.

The outage or just the general low-quality of Yahoo! Mail will not stop users from accessing other (much higher quality) properties such as Yahoo! Finance or Yahoo! Sports. If my email went out, I'm only robbing myself if stop reading Nicholas Cotsonika on the National Hockey League out of some silly protest.

In other words, there's no nexus between isolated or endemic deficiencies in Yahoo! Mail and any meaningful exodus from the other things Yahoo! does.

The notion of Yahoo! as a daily habit lives on despite this hiccup. Mayer continues to make Yahoo! more exciting and relevant as a daily habit. As such, she will increase the time you spend with Yahoo! by smartly staking out territory in video others have ignored and neglected.

What we're seeing here is best summed up in a couple of Tweets I posted Thursday morning:

When you trade stocks, you have to keep track of the emotion others spew. That's part of your edge. That applies here for traders and investors. But it's also relevant for people uninterested in YHOO as a trade or investment.

The psychology of this situation can actually help those willing to look and do the work better understand the company and see through the Mail-related outrage and, in some corners, vendetta against Marissa Mayer.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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