What’s wrong with Yahoo?

For years, Yahoo has provided the Internet community with reasonably well maintained, stable services in the form of Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Groups and Yahoo messenger.

But all that seems to have gone down the drain, and irretrievably so.

For many months now, I have tried interacting with Yahoo, trying to get problems fixed at all levels of their services.

I failed to make any headway, and I give up. The only way left for me now is the public route, and I am taking it.

Let’s start with Yahoo Mail, which can be described in one word – spam. Open an account on Yahoo, and don’t tell anyone about it. Just sit back and watch as your brand new, unknown account starts filling up with spam. And not just pyramid and other “get rich quick” schemes – every second piece of spam seems to be pornographic in nature. And never mind if you are a 40 year old adult or a 10 year old kid.

Since the account has never been used (in fact has just been opened), there is very clearly a nexus between Yahoo and these spammers.

I am not saying that Yahoo sells your address to porn spammers. No, it probably only sells your address to “good” spammers. What Yahoo does *not* take into account, however, is that these “good” spammers then sell your address further to porn spammers.

Let’s move on to Yahoo Messenger.

Ever logged in, just to find your mailbox and Yahoo messenger full of abuse from people you know who are upset because you never respond to them when they try to chat with you?

Well, that happens because when you disconnect from the internet, the stupid Yahoo servers don’t time out on your connection and continue to show you online. I had a hilarious scenario when a friend of mine went offline one day, then went to Pune for some training, and for all those months was shown online by Yahoo Messenger Service. He finally returned to Bangalore, and I had to ask him to log onto Yahoo Messenger, then specifically choose “Logout” from the YM menu so that the stupid Yahoo servers recognised that he was going offline.

As I am typing this, my daughter (who is standing next to me, having been off the net for hours) is shown as online in YM.

An additional atrocity is the “logic” (a violent abuse of the term) that Yahoo uses to determine when an IP address should be blocked because of illegal login attempts.

The cable network I am connected to in office has tons and tons of subscribers, all of whom are firewalled and NAT’d behind a handful of IP addresses. Every morning, people come to office, or settle before their home computer, and try to log into Yahoo Messenger. Now given the huge number of people involved (essentially at any time in thousands), it is very likely that a few people will mistype their passwords.

But apparently, you don’t need a huge number of such typos before Yahoo Messenger’s servers rely on their “logic” to block the IP address that these people are coming from – just 5-10 such failed attempts are enough for Yahoo to block these IP addresses (which are gateways to hundreds or even thousands of YM users) for periods as long as 2-3 hours.

Don’t believe this? Just ask their *own* people, who found themselves blocked from the service, until they got “exception entries” placed into their servers so that these gateway IP addresses wouldn’t get blocked!

But poor suckers in corporate networks and small ISPs are out of luck since they cannot wield such influence, and have been forced to switch to MSN Messenger or other competitors just so that they would be able to communicate with people across the world.

Finally, the biggest tragedy of them all – Yahoo Groups.

For years, Yahoo groups (formerly known as eGroups) provided efficient and well organised services to hundreds and thousands of mailing lists, clubs, groups of people, etc.

Then something horrible happened to Yahoo Groups – Yahoo tried to “improve” it. And what they did to the service is worse than any sado-masochistic nightmare can ever be.

First of all, Yahoo Groups has defective DNS servers. Since sometime in 2001, the servers sporadically can no longer resolve domains, resulting in people’s accounts being marked as bouncing, because “No MX or A Records for domain xyz” where “xyz” could be any domain you can think of, including (but not limited to) my own domains (exocore.com, atulchitnis.net), well known domains (hotmail.com) and (ironically) the ones you’d least expect to bounce because of a bad MX or A record – “yahoo.com”, “yahoo.co.in”, etc.!!!!!!!

OK, so what does this mean to the poor list admin who has his lists on Yahoo Groups (in my case about 15 of them)?

Just this – at any given time, more than 50% of his list subscribers are marked as bouncing and no longer receive messages from the lists!

The more active the group (like the linux-bangalore lists I maintain), the more likely huge percentages of list subscribers will be marked as bouncing.

Worse – there is no way that the listadmin can mass-undo such false alarms. No “unbounce all”.

In fact, when I complained about this, Yahoo went one step further – now the “bouncing members” lists are either inaccurate, or completely empty, even when individual member profiles show them as bouncing.

My favourite test is to first look at the “empty” bouncing member lists, then do a search on “yahoo.co.in” in the member lists, and check each and every account that shows up in the subscriber base – each and everyone of them will be marked as “hard bouncing”.

One could say, of course, that this is “natural” given the “huge numbers” of lists and subscribers and the “instability” of the Internet.

However, this is not true at all.

I tried to find out the reasons for these problems, but even my friends at Yahoo India weren’t talking. That made me very suspicious, and so I had some sniffing done elsewhere. And what I found was horrifying – Yahoo has known about these problems for a long time, but has simply been unable to solve them. Their response to the danger of someone going public about this is to call a meeting with their PR people.

This is a world far removed from the worldclass services David Filo and Jerry Yang set out to build. This is a nightmare, and no one in Yahoo seems to care, or be able to do anything about it. “More advertisements” is the focus for these people, not “better and reliable services”.

Yahoo no longer deserves the support of its subscribers and people relying on its services. Not when this is the consistant shoddy service they offer people. Sure, you can scream about “it is free, you get what you pay for”, but do you think that the “premium” service, where you pay some money to have the ads removed from your messages, would solve the issue?

I am a member of a lot of such “premium” groups on Yahoo, and *all* of them have the same problems.

The problem lies deep inside Yahoo. It is a problem often seen when a company becomes top heavy, when the people at the middle and operational levels don’t really care anymore, or lose touch with reality.

It is time that David Filo and his band of visionaries come out of their board rooms and have a look at this mess, and roll up their sleeves, and fix this broken, whimpering mess that calls itself “Yahoo”.

p.s. Yahoo – don’t waste money on sending your lawyers after me to gag me – spend it on good people who will fix your technical problems, not your legal ones.