Yahoo Mail has been around virtually since the beginning of the internets, and I'm sure we all know someone that not only sends annoyingly fancy email from the web-based service, but also uses Yahoo IM. Arg!
But Yahoo has been cleaning up its act a little, recently. It's made a number of so-hip-it-hurts acquisitions, including Flickr and Delicious. Not content with that, the company has revamped its webmail into an AJAX-a-riffic web app, adding new features and aiming to beat Gmail at its own, fancy-pants game.
So what of it? Well, users have to choose to use the Yahoo Mail Beta - they can choose to use the dull-as-dishwater version instead, if they want. Should you choose to go Beta, you'll be hit with what looks very much like a standard mail client - with a folder list down the left, a list of messages at the top and a preview pane at the bottom, a la Outlook. The whole thing looks and feels like a desktop client - aside from the massive ads everywhere.
Yes, that's right. Whilst Gmail is ad-free, hoping to entice users to its other services, Yahoo is happy to shove ads in your face whilst you're reading mail. There's a big one down the right hand side, and lots of little ones splashed around the interface. You can get rid of these if you pay Yahoo £12 a year for the premium service, but this seems like a bit of a swizz. Your 12 quid also gets you 2GB of email space - another thing that Google gives you gratis.
However, Yahoo could certainly give Google a lesson in interface design. For a start, you can compose messages in HTML - and whilst this has horrendous potential for abuse, it's pretty essential for anything remotely formal. There's a check mail button, which means you don't have to keep refreshing the page to get new mail in your inbox. Heck, there's even a tabbing feature, where emails you're working on and messages you have open are switchable across the top pane of the window, like Firefox, making organisation a heck of a lot easier.
How about features? Well, like most other services, you can set up your Yahoo to poll mail from any POP3 hosting you control, there's an auto-responder, and you can also send SMS messages from the service, which is pretty neat.
However, four months of inactivity will get you shut off (unless you go pro), and Calendar integration isn't as good as Google Mail (not to mention the fact that no-one uses Yahoo Calendar).
All in all, Yahoo is a great stab at a web-based email service. It looks good, if a little clunky, bar the ads, and it works well. It's just sort of unexceptional. There's nothing to recommend it over Google, aside from the looks, and the GoogApp integration and tagging, POP flexibility etc make up for that, in our opinion. Aside from that, is anyone seen dead with a Yahoo.com email address these days? Whilst xX_sexy_grrl_1986_Xx might disagree, the rest of the sane world will probably stick to Gmail.
Nice interface, SMS, HTML email.
Ads, Premium service comparable to Google's free.