On October 4th a Reuters report by Joseph Menn revealed that last year Yahoo! secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials. As a result, Fight for the Future created a website urging people to Dump Yahoo. I might not have followed the advice but for the fact that Yahoo! has been regularly annoying me since I first created my account back in 2001.
In August 2000 Yahoo! acquired eGroups.com which was being used for my walking club mailing list. About 8 months later Yahoo! Groups was launched, merging eGroups.com and Yahoo! Clubs – I guess it was then that I had to create a Yahoo! account in order to continue using the walking club group. I took a look at the archive recently and noticed that it had not been used for two years (we are now communicating by direct email and there is also a Facebook page though that is not getting much use either). I was a joint owner of the Yahoo! group and since I would no longer be able to administer it after deleting my account I suggested we delete it. Nobody objected so I shut the group down. Incidentally, back in the 1990s my walking club also had a free website hosted on GeoCities, which in 1999 was also acquired by Yahoo! – they kept it going for ten years before shutting it down in an attempt to get users to migrate to their fee-based web hosting service. We didn’t bother, but before it disappeared from Yahoo! our website was archived by OoCities.org. Getting back to Yahoo! Groups, I have also been subscribed to an active group used by my local cycling campaign, and that was the major obstacle to me dumping Yahoo!. I thought about it for a while and in the end just decided to unsubscribe – I will let the rest of the group know why and suggest switching to some other system.
So having deleted one group and unsubscribed from another I was no longer dependent on Yahoo! Groups. What next? Well in 2004 I had opened a Flickr account for image hosting and in 2005 Yahoo! acquired Flickr – are you seeing a pattern yet? In 2007 Yahoo! announced that “Old Skool” Flickr members (those that joined before the Yahoo! acquisition) would be required to associate their account with a Yahoo! ID. From that point it was not possible to delete a Yahoo! account without also deleting the associated Flickr account. I have uploaded probably a couple of hundred photos to Flickr but I have got them all in Photos on my iMac so I just deleted them from Flickr and closed my account.
That was it! I was now ready to delete my Yahoo! account, which I did yesterday. The account is no longer accessible but it won’t actually be deleted for 90 days – Yahoo! says this is to guard against fraudulent activity.
I said that Yahoo! has been regularly annoying me since 2001 so here are a few more ways it managed to achieve this. Firstly there is the aesthetics. I have always thought Yahoo! was at the ugly end of the spectrum for websites along with monstrosities like MySpace in its early incarnation (at the other end of the scale are Apple and Vimeo). Things weren’t helped by the fact that the site was in a constant state of flux so before you could get used to a change they would change it again. Another problem which has only got worse over time is the horrible tabloid style click bait journalism which festoons the site (there are plenty of newer sites which are worse but Yahoo! seems to have been a pioneer).
Then (as I alluded to earlier) there was the constant stream of acquisitions. Products which would either be assimilated or killed. For example there was upcoming, which was launched in 2003, acquired by Yahoo! in 2005 and killed off in 2013 (in 2014 the original creator Andy Baio announced a Kickstarter campaign to relaunch it as an independent site). There was also the social bookmarking site called Delicious which launched in 2003 and was acquired by Yahoo! in 2005. In December 2010 a leaked slide indicated that Delicious would be “sunsetted”. At that point I had been using it for a while and had a fairly large collection of bookmarks so I moved them to Pinboard which had been launched by Maciej Ceglowski in 2009. Pinboard has a one-off signup fee which I was happy to pay in exchange for a well maintained and ad-free service (in fact Yahoo! did not kill Delicious but sold it to AVOS Systems).
Finally there is the shoddy security. It seems to me that for many years Yahoo! email accounts have been particularly prone to hacking – most people I know with Yahoo! email addresses have been accused at some point of sending out spam. Then In September this year Yahoo! revealed that there had been a massive data breach of its services back in late 2014. They estimated that at least 500 million user account credentials had been stolen and advised people to change their passwords. Yahoo! was quick to pin the blame on a “state-sponsored actor” but as security guru Bruce Schneider wrote in an article titled The Hacking of Yahoo it was actually criminal hackers who exploited weak security.
So there we are. I am glad to be rid of Yahoo! and I would advise others to follow my example.