Yahoo! Mail Beta: The Boundaries that Had to Be Overcome
Article by George Norman
On 12 Oct 2010
As you may remember, about a month back Yahoo! announced that it will release a new and improved Yahoo! Mail Beta as part of its commitment to deliver the best email service to the 281 million people around the world who use Yahoo!’s email client. The new Yahoo! Mail Beta has not been released; something else has. Yahoo! explained what boundaries it had to overcome to create the new Yahoo! Mail Beta.

The boundaries Yahoo! had to overcome are as follows:
Performance boundaries – the team had to find a way to blend together server-side processing with JavaScript computing in the user’s web browser; the team had to find a good mix of server-side and client-side computing and make Yahoo! Mail faster and more responsive that ever before.


Geographic boundaries – as mentioned above, there are more than 281 million people who use Yahoo! Mail and they are spread all over the world. Yahoo! Mail Beta has to provide a fast and pleasurable experience to every user, no matter where in the world he is. The tricky thing is that performance is affected by several factors: server location, local regulations, and market conditions.

Senior Director of Engineering, Julia Lee, explains what it took to overcome this boundary: “We’ve taken many approaches to improve performance by maximizing the use of edge serving to optimize traffic routing, local cache serving, and specialized heavy bandwidth servers. That results in a better experience whether you access Yahoo! Mail in South Dakota or South Africa.”

Localized boundaries – again, Yahoo! Mail has to cater to several hundred million users. This means the email service has to handle a great diversity of usage habits. Yahoo! Mail is localized in 40 different languages and is available in all markets. Furthermore, Yahoo! Mail is deisgned, customized, tested, deployed and maintained in a global manner.

Design boundaries – Julia Lee again: “Design makes a huge difference, especially as it translates into engineering. We’re constantly updating and evolving our product based on what we learn from user feedback and testing. Our software development infrastructure and processes incorporate design with Agile in mind. We’ve built a development framework allowing user experience designers to update Yahoo! Mail’s HTML and CSS code jointly with engineering. This blurs the boundary between design and engineering.”

Organizational boundaries – a strong partnership between engineering, design, and product management was needed to create Yahoo! Mail Beta.

Tags: Yahoo!, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Mail Beta
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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