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article imageYahoo says it didn't disable email forwarding to stop you leaving

By James Walker     Oct 17, 2016 in Technology
Yahoo has turned back on email forwarding, a week after switching it off without warning. Some critics have suggested the company did it deliberately to stop customers leaving after it revealed 500 million customer accounts were accessed back in 2014.
Automatic email forwarding is a feature offered by all the major email providers. It allows you to setup a redirect so all the mail sent to your inbox is passed on to another address. This is handy when you want to leave a provider as it ensures mail from contacts who keep using your old address will still reach you.
In September, Yahoo confirmed that a security breach in 2014 affected 500 million users, making it the biggest in history. The company's announcement came two months after Verizon said it would be buying the company. Verizon has since said the news may alter the terms of the deal. Then, earlier this month, reports emerged suggesting Yahoo gave the U.S. government access to all of its users' mail last week, complying with a classified request to scan "hundreds of millions" of accounts.
There are currently several reasons why people may want to abandon Yahoo and switch to a different mail provider. In the wake of all the negative press, Yahoo switched off automatic email forwarding last week though. Without any comment from the company, users theorised Yahoo may be deliberately making it harder for people to move to an alternative service.
Customers noted the "extremely suspicious timing" of the switch-off. According to users, the feature stopped showing up at the beginning of October, alongside the news of Yahoo's compliance with the U.S. government's request.
After staying silent for a while, Yahoo provided an explanation today and announced it is turning email forwarding back on. It said it disabled the feature to "improve performance" while upgrading the Yahoo platform. According to the company, it was temporarily shut down to facilitate the addition of new features.
"Over the past year, Yahoo Mail has been upgrading its platform," said Michael Albers, VP of Product Management, Yahoo Mail. "This has allowed us to bring a better search experience to Yahoo Mail, add multiple account support, and improve performance as we quickly scale this new system globally. The feature was temporarily disabled as part of this process."
Yahoo apologised for the interruption to its customers. Assuming the company is stating the truth, the switch-off couldn't have come at a less convenient time for users, or a more conspicuous one for Yahoo.
Albers said that Yahoo "recommends" connecting your Yahoo inbox to your preferred email client or provider directly, instead of using email forwarding. The company's blog post does not acknowledge that people are currently using forwarding to leave Yahoo. Instead, it reads as a list of new features that could convince customers to stay.
Some analysts have pointed out that Yahoo's explanation for the downtime doesn't sound entirely watertight either. Email forwarding has been around for years and companies don't generally turn features off while upgrading their platforms. Updates are continually rolled out as incremental patches and new and old features can temporarily co-exist. It remains unclear what platform "upgrade" necessitated the week-long switch-off of email forwarding.
More about Yahoo, Email, Online, Cybersecurity
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