I should start this article out by stating that I use Yahoo mail for my personal information. I actually signed up for the mail service back in 1997 when it first launched. However, with that said I would be lying if I didn’t say the recent activities and disclosures do not have me concerned. I certainly would suggest any company have their email on professional grade system such as Exchange or CleanMail Online
“Yahoo is a company that changed the world. Before Yahoo, the internet was a government research project. Yahoo humanized and popularized the web, email, search, real-time media, and more,” – Merissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo!
Following a hack that compromised over half a billion user accounts, disappointing financial results almost every quarter, and a waning advertising business, Yahoo has fallen far from the lofty heights it once occupied. While it is still perceived as a company that revolutionized Internet usage, and is often mentioned alongside Microsoft, Google and Apple as a technological pioneer, Yahoo has been unable to keep up with the increasingly fast pace at which the world has been changing, in contrast to these other game-changers. As a result, the company is now being sold off as scraps: the operating side of the business has gone to Verizon, while Yahoo’s cash, shares in Alibaba Group Holdings, shares in Yahoo Japan and non-core patents will be retained under their new trading name, Altaba.
Verizon has agreed to pay just under $4.5 billion for the flailing company. This news has come after a $350 million discount that was announced earlier this year, in light of what constituted the largest ever security breach of an American company. The huge deal is set to close in the second quarter of this year.
To some, it’s a mystery as to why Verizon is still willing to pay such a hefty price for a company that is bleeding users, has a reputation for being incapable of safeguarding customer data, and has been the subject of a prolonged battering by the media.
However, Verizon has deemed the acquisition “strategic sense”: the more information that they can amass about people’s online behavior and activities, the more they can compete with Google and Facebook in leveraging that information with marketers. As Yahoo has over one billion active users and is the second biggest email client in America and the largest in Europe, the acquisition does indeed seem to coincide with Verizon’s emerging strategy: to pivot from a data providing company to a media behemoth.
As noted by David Gelles of the New York Times, “[i]f Verizon has its way, it will cast off its reputation as a big, boring telephone company battling a unionized work force and emerge as a digital media player mentioned in the same breath as Snapchat and Pokémon… It’s quite the pivot. At first glance, the acquisitions have almost nothing to do with Verizon’s main moneymaking activity; selling data plans to its roughly 110 million cell-phone customers.”
While this is good news for Verizon and its broader strategy, hundreds of millions of Yahoo users now have something new to worry about: Verizon’s aggressive use of customer data. For users who already believe that Yahoo mishandled private information, colluded with the NSA and suffered data breach after data breach, Verizon’s takeover plans will be a hard pill to swallow. According to Marc Rotenberg of the EPIC, “It’s pretty much the fox taking over the henhouse… Verizon has always been sneaky about its privacy practices, and Yahoo is the poster child for security breaches.” For its users, this seems to be Yahoo’s polite way of saying, thank you for your business, and we look forward to selling you out.
Verizon is expected to follow-up their purchase with the same strategy applied in their acquisition of AOL. In terms of what will become of the Yahoo brand and email client, the consensus seems to be that no real changes will take place, at least not for the next six to twelve months. In the United States, Yahoo ranks only behind Gmail as the most used email provider, and in Latin America and Europe, the platform remains the most popular choice. Losing this brand affinity amongst the 225 million users worldwide would be a rash misstep.
The future of Yahoo Mail looks especially bright under Verizon. With their broad reach and distribution capabilities, Yahoo Mail may begin to come pre-loaded on devices sold by Verizon. As a result, the e-mail platform will start to compete with apps such as Gmail and Apple Mail, both of which already come pre-installed with most Android and Apple devices.
Braver Technology Solutions LLC