Mailing Lists, Google vs Yahoo

With the announcement yesterday of the beta version of Google Groups 2, Yahoo Groups now has serious competition. I’m not a disinterested party in this latest Yahoo vs Google battle. I started ONElist, which morphed into eGroups, which was acquired by Yahoo and is now Yahoo Groups. That was in September of 2000. I know and appreciate the power and utility of mailing lists. I am also friends with the people running both services, and without exception they are great engineers.
Yahoo has basically had the free mailing list space to themselves for the past 3 and a half years. I’m not familiar with the exact traffic numbers, but groups traffic accounts for a not insignificant percentage of Yahoo’s total traffic and user base. At the time of the acquisition, eGroups had 20 million users and we were sending billions of emails a month. Those numbers have only multiplied since then.
Anyone familiar with eGroups and now Yahoo Groups can attest that the service has not been improved since the acquisition. In fact, Yahoo has placed several limits on the service, including limiting message archive storage space. This is not the fault of the engineers working on Y! Groups, who work really hard on maintaining the system. It’s simply a function of resources. Yahoo has never dedicated much manpower to the Groups service. For example, right now I believe that there are only 3 engineers working to support all of Groups.
All of this is of course Yahoo’s right. But it does make the new competition with Google more interesting. Imagine if Yahoo had dedicated serious manpower to improving Yahoo Groups over the past 3 and a half years, instead of keeping it in maintenance mode. Imagine how much more difficult it would be for Google to enter this space if Yahoo had been constantly improving Y! Groups.
I’m just glad that there a chance for innovation in this space again, even if it doesn’t involve my old company.

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