Months after I got invited to beta test Gmail and Windows Live Mail (the upcoming successor to Hotmail), I finally got my invitation to beta test the new version of Yahoo Mail the other day. Now that I’ve used all three, here are three things I like and three I don’t about each.
Was the wait for Yahoo Mail worth it? Maybe- it’s pretty cool. Let’s take a quick look at all three applications:
1) The ads are unobtrusive. This is a huge advantage at the moment.
2) The Compose Mail window is the best of show. Lots of features, clean, uncluttered layout.
3) The Gmail Manager extension for Firefox makes it very easy to manage multiple Gmail accounts. A big advantage if you use multiple email addresses.
I Don’t Like:
1) No folders: I am still a folder guy when it comes to email storage.
2) If you’re used to Outlook, it’s a little hard to navigate.
3) Web Clips should be in addition to, not in lieu of, full RSS features.
Windows Live Mail
1) If you use IE, the layout, look and feel are very similar to Outlook.
2) The multiple sort options in you inbox (by date, from, subject and size).
3) Great integration of email, calendar and contacts.
I Don’t Like:
1) Many features don’t work with Firefox. The Live Mail team is working on this and I suspect it will be a temporary problem.
2) I couldn’t figure out how to import calendar and contacts from Outlook. Hopefully this is coming. If I could synch between my home and office computers using Live Mail, that would be a huge advantage.
3) Needs RSS features.
1) It seems very well designed in general. The slight leader over Live Mail at the moment.
2) The calendar view and features are great.
3) RSS implementation is well done. I’ll never read the majority of my feeds in an email application (for these reasons), but some RSS feeds (like newspaper headlines, etc.) are perfect for reading in an email application.
I Don’t Like:
1) It crashes sometimes when I access it with Firefox.
2) Bad ad implementation- a great big ad at the top right. Again, use unobtrusive text ads.
3) I don’t like the contacts view nearly as much as I like the view in Outlook. Give us some display options here.
I have moved my RSS feed reading almost exclusively online. But because my primary email address is not a Gmail, Live Mail or Yahoo address, I still read most of my mail offline, via Outlook. Yahoo lets you retrieve your other email, which is handy if you want to access your email via someone else’s computer. But if you have your computer, it’s always going to be easier just to access your other email directly, via Outlook, etc.
All three applications have great features working in their favor. All three are still in beta, so the story isn’t over. But as of today, if I had to pick one to use as my primary email application, it would probably be Yahoo, because of the RSS implementation and the ability to access my primary email if I need to. If Live Mail gets Firefox friendly and adds RSS capability and POP mail retrieval, its Outlook-like features will give it the edge.
My prediction: Yahoo is ahead at the moment, but Live Mail will catch up. Gmail will be everyone’s “second” email address for a while until Google capitulates and makes a more traditional inbox structure an option.
Long term, all three will have significant market share, which is a win for the consumer.