Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Webmail war: Gmail vs. Outlook.com vs. Yahoo Mail

This was the subject of a recent (March 1, 2013) Computerworld article by Serdar Yegulalp.  Here is my summary of this interesting article.

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all rolled out major changes to their free webmail services. Which now offers the best organization, message handling, mobile options and advanced features?

There's little question that Web-based email has captured a major portion of the user base. The conveniences of webmail -- all your messages in one place, few or no practical limits on storage, access from almost any client device -- make it all the more appealing to generations of users for whom client apps like Outlook are clunky relics.

In his roundup, he looks at what's changed for each email service during the past year -- both cosmetically and functionally -- and the ways each implements commonly used features: mail organization and searching, POP/IMAP access, handling of attachments and the mobile experience (including apps). His article includes a discussion on how to switch email accounts including moving email and moving contacts.

The article includes a “Bottom Line” comment for each of the three major free webmail services:

Gmail, from Google, continues as a fine choice for an email service, rich with meta-organizational features and external connectivity options.  However, gmail’s highly useful sync features for Outlook are now only available for paying customers.

Outlook.com, formerly Hotmail.com, is clean looking and works well, but the lack of IMAP support and the uncertain state of its mobile apps and mobile site is inconvenient.
NB: I’ll have a discussion on the phase out of Hotmail in an upcoming post.

Yahoo mail is easy to work with and approachable,  but all the features that would make it even more useful are either behind a paywall or absent entirely.

The article concludes by saying that Outlook.com is a welcome surprise, even if there's no support for IMAP and its mobile experience could still use some work. It's going to be one to watch, especially with Microsoft's growing push toward being a services outfit for end-users instead of just all-Windows, all the time. Meanwhile, Yahoo Mail is a decent entry-level product for undemanding users, but it's easy to see people outgrowing it quickly.
Folks who are uncomfortable with the way Gmail offers up ads based on the content of email might want one of the other services. Another big gripe with Gmail is how a key piece of its functionality -- client sync -- has been shunted out of the free product and into the for-pay tier. I hope this isn't a trend.
But in the end, it's hard to go wrong with Gmail. It's been broadly adopted, has a solid feature set and supports most of the popular mail protocols.

You can view the entire article at: