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Webmail war: Gmail vs. Outlook.com vs. Yahoo Mail

Serdar Yegulalp | March 4, 2013
Does Google, Microsoft or Yahoo now deserve your webmail business?

Yahoo Mail allows you to add apps, essentially plugins for your mailbox, which are provided by third parties though Yahoo.Click to view larger image

Yahoo Mail allows you to add apps, essentially plugins for your mailbox, which are provided by third parties though Yahoo. Some of Yahoo's own services have apps as well -- for example, Flickr, which lets you share photos easily from your Flickr account. I also liked the Attach Large Files app, courtesy of YouSendIt (which I reviewed not long ago), a way to send big files to someone else without choking their inbox. The number of apps right now is small -- only 10 or so -- but that may just be because the revamped Yahoo Mail is still such a new product.

Limited organizing

Yahoo Mail's biggest drawback is its almost complete lack of organizational tools. You can create folders, but they can't be arranged in hierarchies. The only other way to organize messages is by starring them as important, but apart from that there's no way to tag or otherwise apply metadata to mail.

Yahoo Mail does offer a system for filtering incoming mail via matching keywords against the header or body of the message. In addition, the menu for any given email message includes a "Filter mail like this" option to pre-populate a filter with the selected message's attributes.

You can only automatically forward email to another account in the for-pay version of Yahoo Mail, and you can only forward to one email address at a time. You can retain forwarded mails in your Yahoo inbox if you need to.

Mobile use

Yahoo hasn't skimped on providing mobile apps for Mail. Clients exist for iOS (optimized for the iPhone) and Android. In addition, its mobile site is fairly polished, adjusting the layout of its display based on the size and type of the accessing device.

Bottom line

Yahoo Mail is easy to work with and approachable, but all the features that would make it even more useful are either behind a paywall or absent entirely.

Conclusions

For those who haven't considered Hotmail since Gmail came along, Outlook.com is a welcome surprise, even if there's no support for IMAP and its mobile experience could still use some work. It's going to be one to watch, especially with Microsoft's growing push toward being a services outfit for end-users instead of just all-Windows, all the time. Meanwhile, Yahoo Mail is a decent entry-level product for undemanding users, but it's easy to see people outgrowing it quickly.

Folks who are uncomfortable with the way Gmail offers up ads based on the content of email (however automatic the process) might want one of the other services. Another big gripe I have with Gmail is how a key piece of its functionality -- client sync -- has been shunted out of the free product and into the for-pay tier. I hope this isn't a trend.

 

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