Over the weekend, Yahoo quietly “upgraded” their profile system, resulting, intentionally, in a great deal of user data – specifically profile and alias data – being removed.
The new Yahoo profile area seems, by design or otherwise, to try to move the Yahoo service into direct competition with Facebook, which itself just revamped its profile format. But in the doing, by obliterating much of a user’s existing profile data – especially without warning users first – Yahoo seems to have really stepped in it.
And as you might imagine, the howls of outrage could be heard around the Internet.
Responded Yahoo, “First off, we want to apologize straight away for not being more proactive in communicating in advance that we were making changes to our profiles. We should have let you know that change was coming.”
While that would have been nice, really what users want most is for their data and aliases to not have disappeared. (Although there is some evidence that some of the profile data may have magically reappeared following the firestorm.)
In large part, what Yahoo seems to have been trying to do was to clean house of both inappropriate aliases and profile data. You see, up until now, people could create many different aliases in, for example, Yahoo Chat, and each alias could have a different profile, allowing one person to, in essence, be many different people. Since the purge, while you can still have more than one alias, any of your aliases must go back to your single profile, or else have no profile.
Yahoo in fact has gone to great pains to explain this (after the fact) on their blog:
“You now have a choice: you can either merge your identities, allowing users to view your main profile, or, you can keep your aliases separate from your main profile even though they won’t have their own profiles. The choice is up to you. If you do bind an alias to your profile, you need to first make sure you have a profile. To do this, go to: http://profiles.yahoo.com and set up your profile.”
Nonetheless, the move has Yahoo users revolting and accusing Yahoo of trying to be a “second rate Facebook”.
“I understand that you probably made this move to compete with Facebook, Myspace…etc. However, if we wanted another service like this, we would have requested it and we would have unsubscribed to your service and sought someone else,” complained one user.
“Making a second rate copy of facebook while breaking everything else people come to Yahoo for is a good way to go out of business,” added another.
Perhaps worse, Yahoo mailing list moderators are complaining that the new profile format no longer allows them to vet prospective mailing list members. “I own two abuse support lists and now I cannot check out the prospective new applicants to join my list by checking their profiles and safety is very important on such lists as mine! I hate this and I’m furious! Change it back,” raged one moderator.
“Yes, please allow us to view the old profile styles. I’m the moderator of an adult group and I check out the prospective new members to make sure that when they say they’re adults, they truly are. I’ve caught kids claiming they were 19-21 yrs old but the comments reflect that they’re still in high school and actually underage.”
And in this, it seems that Yahoo may have unwittingly made worse one of the very problems they were attempting to address.
What do you think? Has your Yahoo account been affected by this change? What do you think of the new profile format?