Yahoo Email Fail: Marissa Mayer’s Apology Isn’t Enough

Michelle Maisto Lead

Marissa Mayer’s apology doesn’t wipe out Yahoo’s mishandling of its email fail, says Michelle Maisto

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer offered an apology on Friday, 13 December, for an email outage that for some Yahoo Mail users had begun on Monday.

“This has been a very frustrating week for our users and we are very sorry,” Mayer said in a post on her Tumblr blog.

The outage, which Yahoo was slow to respond to, did nothing to help Mayer’s efforts to make the world again view the brand as thriving, relevant and modern.


Yahoo doo-doo

“Mayer has been talking up Yahoo Mail for months now, but the fact of the matter is that it’s still terrible,” Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies, told eWEEK. “The changes so far under Mayer have mostly been cosmetic, but what Yahoo Mail really needs is a root canal.”

Mayer, in her blog post, went on to say: “For many of us, Yahoo Mail is a lifeline to our friends, family members and customers. This week, we experienced a major outage that not only interrupted that connection but caused many of you a massive inconvenience—that’s unacceptable and it’s something we’re taking very seriously. Unfortunately, the outage was much more complex than it seemed at first, which is why it’s taking us several days to resolve the compounding issues.”

Customer ire over the outage was stoked early in the process, after some believed Yahoo wasn’t responding with appropriate speed or seriousness. One Yahoo Mail user wrote to eWEEK Monday to say that Yahoo Mail had been down nearly two days and Yahoo hadn’t told users “what the heck is going on.”

Users were also exasperated by a message that wrongly told them that the outage was part of “scheduled maintenance.”

“I don’t recall the last time anything made my blood boil,” Saudi media personality Muna Abu Sulayman tweeted. “When you are messing with our emails, u r messing w/ our work productivity.”

Mayer, in her post, offered a timeline of events. On Monday evening, Yahoo’s operating centre alerted its Mail engineering team that a hardware outage was affecting approximately 1 percent of Yahoo’s users. The team quickly got to work, but the problem “was a particularly rare one, and the resolution for the affected accounts was nuanced since different users were impacted in different ways,” she wrote.

Some users, she continued, saw the “scheduled maintenance” page instead of their accounts, “which was a confusing and incorrect message. … Further, messages sent to those accounts during this time were not delivered but held in a queue.”

As of Friday afternoon, Yahoo was in the process of rolling out IMAP access and restoring the state of users’ inboxes—making certain that emails were in the folders they should be in and starred, if they were supposed to be, etc.

“This process differs for each user and as restoration continues, we’re committing to communicating directly with you on progress on an individual basis,” Mayer insisted.

The Yahoo user who contacted us later commented via email: “What was most frustrating was any lack of information from Yahoo about what was going on. It was at least 24 hours before they started communicating with their users in a meaningful way. Even if only a tiny percentage of users were affected, they still should have made a better effort to explain what was going on. I’m in the technology industry myself and I know how fragile computer systems can be. But the big service providers like Yahoo know this, and that’s why they are supposed to have contingency plans.”

He added that while Yahoo has promised individual communication, he hasn’t received any correspondence yet.

“I suspect I’m still missing some messages that were lost when the hardware failed,” he continued. “Fortunately, I have the important stuff, like itineraries for my March [vacation].”

Endpoint’s Kay said the outage isn’t life-threatening for Yahoo but it will “definitely damage” its reputation. “Yahoo is positioned somewhere between being a software company and a media company,” he said. “As a software company, it ought to be able to get this one right.”

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Originally published on eWeek.