I’m not a techie. I’m not a big consumer rights advocate (I’m actually all for consumer rights but don’t have the energy, will or guts to actually advocate for them. Yes, I’m part of this country’s problem). I don’t pretend to know anything about how online companies make money through clicks or ads. I know nothing about coding.
I’m just one Yahoo Mail user who suffered a meltdown after the company altered its email and, tragically, removed the tabs from its design. And all I want to know is: Why? Well, that and: What do we have to do, who do we have to beg, who do we petition to bring them back?
Yahoo Mail users endure barbs from Gmail advocates who can’t believe anyone would possibly stick with a company that’s not cool, or their email. These people didn’t understand: Yahoo Mail ruled. I have a Gmail account and hate using it — it’s just too much. Yahoo was easy but most importantly, it actually had functions that set it apart from its dominant competitor. And the main thing was tabs.
Users could have multiple emails open at once and they’d all open in little tabs near the top of your email, one click away. You could be composing an email and have three emails open, especially helpful if you were scanning those messages for information you needed in the email you were writing. Maybe you needed to cut and paste or just glance at them or maybe they were completely unrelated but you just wanted to look at multiple messages. This is an incredibly useful feature. It became critical.
It’s now gone.
This week Yahoo altered its email and upgraded it, forever assuring that millions or thousands or hundreds or how many ever Yahoo Mail users still exist would use air quotes around the word upgraded. It simply made things worse. The tabs are gone. Now? You read an email. If you want to read another one, you have to click on the inbox again and that one goes away and you find the new message. If you’re composing an email, you can’t click back to the inbox without closing the one you’re writing and saving it as a draft. Want to go back to composing? Have to go back to drafts. Repeat. None of it makes sense. As I wrote on Twitter moments after discovering this, it’s like if your cable company provided an upgrade — again, put your own air quotes in — by eliminating the channel guide.
Some people suggested going into Settings and switching back to the Basic would get the tabs back but it doesn’t for me and others I’ve read. They’re gone.
The company made other changes that make things worse, like hiding your folders so you have to separately click on them instead of seeing them all listed on the left side. Again, why? If you’re searching for emails, to see snippets of the emails you also have to enable conversations, another new feature. Yahoo apparently doesn’t realize that one reason people have avoided Gmail is because we — and I feel safe speaking for the Yahoo masses — hate the conversations feature, where all the messages string together. You can get out of conversations on Yahoo, and I have, but it comes with a price. There’s also infinite scrolling, which I can get used to even though it makes things worse (I knew which pages certain emails were on and just clicked on them).
Yahoo users are quite upset. On all kinds of forums the same message rings out: Bring back our tabs. Yahoo itself writes, “Yahoo Mail has a fresh look and new feature we think you’ll love.” And then notes, “It’s no longer possible to view your Yahoo Mail messages in individual tabs.”
To the world at large, this is probably a little adorable, like your grandmother ranting about wanting rotary phones brought back. “You still use Yahoo Mail? Well there’s your problem! How can you not be on Gmail!” Because it offered better options. I’m not going to switch to Gmail or anything but it has made life more difficult, for unknown reasons.
And this isn’t about being upset at change just because it’s change. Yahoo’s made previous alterations over the years and they’ve been fine — in fact, they added the tabs function on one of those changes and changed our life for the better. Unlike Facebook or Gmail users who number in the billions — or whatever — our fight probably won’t attract the attention of those in charge. Yahoo itself seems oblivious. On some of the Yahoo answer boards, the company responds when someone wonders about its new Themes option — utterly pointless — but is silent about the tabs. Who cares about a theme of your email? We just want to be able to write and toggle back and forth between different messages. It set Yahoo apart, and now that it’s gone its users are falling apart.
I’ve never signed an online petition but this might change that. I spent Tuesday night reading other people complain about the change and felt a solidarity that made me feel like I wasn’t alone. We can do this! On Twitter I asked Sports on Earth’s Will Leitch — who I knew was a Yahoo Mail user — if he might, perhaps, have the type of power that could lead to a change if he’d lead a revolt. His response? “If only. THERE WAS A REASON WE DIDN’T SWITCH TO GMAIL YOU DOPES.”
Yes there was.
It’s impossible to even imagine the scene at Yahoo that brought about this change. Who first suggested it, then had their boss agree and send it up the chain of command? Was it first done as a practical joke and then things advanced so much they had no choice but to go forward? It makes me wonder if everyone at Yahoo actually uses Gmail and didn’t realize what set their own product apart.
I would actually like someone who’s much smarter than me to explain why Yahoo might have done this. Is there some technical reason they would make the change? Someone who knows computers and programming and is an expert in these things. Maybe it would help me understand the big picture, even if I wouldn’t agree with it. Is it about getting users to click more often inside their email program and that translates into revenue with ads? Or something? Smart people, help a dumb email user out.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep reading messageboards of fellow Yahoo Mail users who once loved their email but are now brokenhearted. I’d say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but I knew how good the tabs were while I had them. And I know how bad Yahoo Mail’s become without them.
UPDATE: Check the comments below for post by lifeispleasure about a way to get tabs and previous version back. Or visit this link on his website. So far it seems to be working.
OCTOBER 30 UPDATE: So Yahoo apparently fixed these “bugs” that allowed users to go back to the old version with tabs. Great! Now you really are stuck with this horrid new version that everyone hates. Argh.
OCTOBER 31 UPDATE: Now today one of the workarounds is working again. Go to Basic. Go to toolbar and delete /b. Tabs should return. This is all some sick experiment.