Update: Yahoo struggles under weight of long email outage

As Yahoo works to get email working, analyst expects exodus of its users

As Yahoo goes into another day of an long email outage, angry users are venting their frustrations on social networks.

At least one industry analyst said that when an email outage goes from a few hours to a few days, its users move on to new services. Many Yahoo email users are probably using the downtime to set up new Gmail or Outlook.com accounts.

"This is a major setback," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Long email outages are awful in this age of constant connection. Long outages are a big problem. I can't remember anything like this."

Friday morning, Yahoo was still working on getting all of its email users back up and running, and calmed down.

"By now, most of the affected Yahoo Mail users should have access to their accounts on the Web, POP and through our mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows 8," the company reported on its status page at 2 a.m. ET today. "There are a small number of users whose accounts have been brought online within the last several hours who may temporarily not see messages from before the outage. We're working hard to fully restore these inboxes. In the meantime, these users should be receiving the backlog of emails sent during the outage and should be able to send and receive new messages."

However, Yahoo noted that IMAP access still is not widely available and the company is working on bringing it back up.

"Thank you for your continued patience throughout this process," the company wrote.

The trouble began around 1:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, when users began complaining that they couldn't access email in their inboxes and the emails they were sending weren't being delivered.

Blaming a hardware a problem, Yahoo tweeted, "We know some of our users are unable to use Yahoo Mail. We're on it & trying to restore access in a few hours. Sorry for the inconvenience."

The company's engineers, however, needed more than a few hours for the problem.

On Wednesday night, Yahoo tweeted again, this time noting, "Your most recent messages may not be appearing in your inbox. We have a backlog from the outage & are trying to deliver them ASAP."

On its status page, the company admitted that the issue had been harder to fix than they had expected. "We have dozens of people working around the clock to bring it to a resolution," noted Yahoo. "We believe our current efforts will restore our users' access to their inboxes by 3pm PT [on Dec. 11]."

That, however, did not happen.

Later Wednesday, Yahoo reported that "most affected users" were able to access their Yahoo Mail accounts on the Web and on Yahoo's mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows 8. The company also said most users should have been able to log in to their accounts and send and receive messages.

They also noted that users' most recent emails still may not have appeared in their inboxes.

"We're starting to deliver emails that were sent to you during the outage," Yahoo wrote. "Because we have a backlog, it may take us a bit of time but rest assured we're trying to deliver them as fast as we can... We're still working on bringing all accounts up to date."

The trouble continued Thursday. "We can confirm that 97% of affected users have access to their Mail accounts on Web, POP and the Yahoo Mail iOS, Android and Windows 8 apps," Yahoo reported at 3 p.m. ET. "For these users, we have delivered 80% of their queued messages that were sent from 10:27 PM PT on 12/9 until now."

The company acknowledged that "some users" were still having trouble accessing their email. "We're working tirelessly to restore access to their accounts," Yahoo added.

At 6:30 p.m. ET, Yahoo said it was still working on outstanding problems.

On Thursday afternoon, Twitter user @Kidsonthekorner complained, "@yahoomail went from apathy to panic now dread. Will I ever get my emails?"

Yahoo replied to the user, "We're working on this right now and we expect all emails to be delivered by tomorrow afternoon."

However, @Kidsonthekorner wasn't buying it. "Not really comforting when you've been saying that for the last two days," she replied.

For Gottheil, the outage is a major blow to Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer's attempts to turn around a company that had been lagging for years.

"I'd say there is a major panic at Yahoo about now," he said. "Gmail is innovating all the time, and lots of things integrate with it. Some people will switch because, for email, it's all about uptime... It's certainly a setback. It's harder to innovate when you're struggling to keep the lights on."

This article, Yahoo struggles under weight of long email outage, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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