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Yahoo Changes User Profiles, To Massive Outrage 255

Posted by kdawson
from the why'd-you-go-and-do-that dept.
Wiseleo writes "Yahoo decided to massively screw up their entire userbase by changing all user profiles to blank. No warning, no automated way to get data back, and other unwanted changes. The blog has such choice quotes as 'We know this has been a rough transition for some of you and, and are committed to helping you use, understand, and (hopefully) enjoy your new profile,' and, 'We also know lots of you worked hard on your old profiles and want your data. If you feel like you're missing data, we've saved a copy of your old profile (and alias) and our Customer Care team can retrieve this information. You won't, however, be able to revert back to your old profile format, but you will be able to get any data that you think is missing. To do this, please go here to contact Customer Care.' There were 850 comments posted, all negative, on the first day. There are hundreds more today. There is even more outrage on the Yahoo Messenger blog."
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Yahoo Changes User Profiles, To Massive Outrage

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  • FIRST POST (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mal-2 (675116) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:22AM (#25428817) Homepage Journal

    And nothing of value was lost.

    Seriously, what could be in your profile that you don't know about yourself?

    Mal-2

    • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:01AM (#25429027)
      A bunch of lies you told about yourself?
    • by tonywong (96839)

      I read this story right after I finished reading this story from the New York Times

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/business/19ping.html

      It's about Yahoo's changing of its home page and doing it gradually and and being very careful of responding to feedback.

    • have a look at Flickr. They've completely f*cked it up and removed loads of useful features
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:31AM (#25428849)

    Can we get Facebook and MySpace wiped clean, too?

  • by wild_quinine (998562) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:32AM (#25428857) Homepage
    With the passage of time, a lot of people seem to have forgotten that these services are, for most users, free services.

    When hotmail was new, before Microsoft owned it, there was genuine discussion over how appropriate it would be to trust a service that you don't pay for.

    Seems like for the last ten years or so, that's not even been on the table. It's just one more service that people expect, and expect to run with utter reliability

    I know these companies make a buck from advertising revenue, or whatever. But YOU don't pay them a penny, unless you want to. Most people don't want to.

    If you're complaining because the least part of a large service that you have been using for free, perhaps since the dawn of the commerical internet, has made an unexpected change... well, really, you need to have a long think about whether or not that makes you an ass.

    Even if it doesn't, relying on a free service to keep ANY of your data probably makes you one.

    • by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:34AM (#25428869)

      its about competition. Other free services would never do this. And though we don't pay them, they get money from us. So we can complain. That said. Yahoo please die already, noone has liked you since '96.

      • > its about competition. Other free services would never do this. And though we don't pay
        > them, they get money from us.

        If you don't pay them they don't get money from you. They may get money from people you buy stuff from, but that money stops being yours when you spend it. Try to understand that to these advertising agencies you are the product, not the customer. Nothing wrong with that as long as you remember that the services they give you are just promotional gimmicks. They have no obligation

    • by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:39AM (#25428901) Journal

      Even if it doesn't, relying on a free service to keep ANY of your data probably makes you one.

      I wouldn't have any more faith in the paid ones [arstechnica.com].

    • by William Ager (1157031) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:40AM (#25428919)

      While it is true that many users are using the services for free, Yahoo also has a significant number of paying users, if I recall correctly; I see nothing to suggest that these changes didn't affect them as well.

      Unfortunately, many companies with online services that have free and paid versions tend to forget about the paying customers when planning these sorts of things.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BrokenHalo (565198)
      If you're complaining because the least part of a large service that you have been using for free, perhaps since the dawn of the commerical internet, has made an unexpected change... well, really, you need to have a long think about whether or not that makes you an ass.

      Well said. I have had several discussions with associates and friends who are by now utterly dependent on Facebook. The latter has always bothered me, since (among other reasons) there are so many cases of people getting their fingers burnt
    • Yahoo requires users to be successful.
      Users are pissed off.

      ergo Yahoo hurt themselves. Who cares if users have a "right" to be pissed off.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)

      I don't see why you brush off the ads so quickly. Users use the system in exchange for being exposed to ads, and exposing recipients to ads. If it weren't for those users, Yahoo wouldn't be able to sell ads.

      Even if it doesn't, relying on a free service to keep ANY of your data probably makes you one.

      There is a big difference between being an ass and being stupid or careless.

    • by symbolset (646467)

      Seems like for the last ten years or so, that's not even been on the table. It's just one more service that people expect, and expect to run with utter reliability

      Since I've had it my gmail has been available whenever and wherever I wanted it. All the time. Everywhere. If it has failed in the last five years, it failed somebody else. AFAIC it's got nine nines of reliability. In the hypothetical future where they let me down maybe I'll consider somebody else for my important stuff. Frankly I'd forgive

      • by SL Baur (19540)

        Since I've had it my gmail has been available whenever and wherever I wanted it. All the time. Everywhere. If it has failed in the last five years, it failed somebody else.

        That would be me. But it has failed less often than the ancient Linux box serving xemacs.org has failed over the same time period.

        As you point out, gmail has been pretty much available whereever (I've accessed it from all over the world) and whenever I want it. It works for me and with a few tweaks to the system, it would be worth paying for.

        • Some friends and I were discussing general utility questions and the issue of what we'd be willing to pay for Google (the search engine) and Gmail (the email service) if we had to.

          The consensus opinion was $50/year for search, $20/year for email. Take that for what you will: it's a water cooler discussion.

          For Yahoo mail and search, MSN anything, or ownership of all of AOL free and clear, $0. Give or take a nickel.

          • by SL Baur (19540)

            The consensus opinion was $50/year for search, $20/year for email. Take that for what you will: it's a water cooler discussion.

            Interesting. Take advertising and wikipedia out of the search results and US$50 would pay for itself in a day, at work.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Some friends and I were discussing general utility questions and the issue of what we'd be willing to pay for Google (the search engine) and Gmail (the email service) if we had to.

            The consensus opinion was $50/year for search, $20/year for email. Take that for what you will: it's a water cooler discussion.

            I have a similar feeling. I'd be willing to go higher, though, considering how useful Google Docs has become. I'd happily pay something like $50 a year for exactly the service I have now (including ads) with GMail just for the guarantee that if they had to shut down, they'd bank the money to keep things operational so I'd get like a month's notice to transition. Going dark is fine. Going dark suddenly, that's what scares me.

    • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:42AM (#25429231)

      If you're complaining because the least part of a large service that you have been using for free, perhaps since the dawn of the commerical internet, has made an unexpected change... well, really, you need to have a long think about whether or not that makes you an ass. Even if it doesn't, relying on a free service to keep ANY of your data probably makes you one.

      I disagree. It doesn't make you an ass, so much as it makes you an idiot.

    • The only reason these "free" services make money on their advertising is because they can claim that they have a large number of users viewing those adds on a regular basis. So, all those people who use Yahoo are paying for it every time they look at one of those adds. That's the business model. Of course, most businesses that don't deal with life-and-death issues are completely free to shoot themselves in the foot and turn their popular services into crap if they want to. On the other hand, it is compl

      • Just as a follow-up, I wanted to make the observation that Yahoo is in a position where they have to please two different customers for every dollar of revenue (actually more than two as many customer views are needed for every dollar of ad space sold but the general point is still the same). This puts them in a difficult position, but it is a position they chose to put themselves in.

        Also, I too am not a fan of Yahoo and don't use their service.

    • I know these companies make a buck from advertising revenue, or whatever. But YOU don't pay them a penny, unless you want to. Most people don't want to.

      If you're complaining because the least part of a large service that you have been using for free, perhaps since the dawn of the commerical internet, has made an unexpected change... well, really, you need to have a long think about whether or not that makes you an ass.

      Small nitpick here: You are paying for ad-sponsored services.

  • I know that online profiles are stupid, but why did they do that. They should have implemented a migration process or something like that. Now Yahoo risks losing some of its userbase for some braindead decision (from the users' point of view).
    • by Joe U (443617)

      I had to do something similar several years ago on, obviously, a much smaller scale.

      Migration costs money, lots of it if you want to do it properly. Our users had a choice, either continue with a backend that didn't work and crashed, lose profiles and settings and have to re-enter them, or burn money migrating what was essentially a few hundred useful profiles.

      Considering that most profiles are just small amounts of user input, we figured that the users could always re-enter it. Yeah, it was a crappy thing

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Considering that most profiles are just small amounts of user input, we figured that the users could always re-enter it. Yeah, it was a crappy thing to do, but it was the right thing to do. (And I personally spent my own time sending lost poems, URLs and pictures back to users who requested them. I'm not a heartless bastard, that title was reserved for upper management)

        From your explanation, you warned them before the transition, so they can save their information and enter it back.

        Yahoo didn't do this. Sending a notification to the users costs nothing.

  • by Garwulf (708651) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:47AM (#25428953) Homepage

    I can't say I'm happy about this - among other things, I had to reset my profile with absolutely no notice whatsoever, and all of my online friends are going to have to do the same. But, I'm not paying any money for this service - I don't even use the official Yahoo client (I use Trillian instead) - so it is theirs to do, no matter how annoying it is.

    However, I want to know something. When you look at the profile screen, an important word stands out in one of the corners - "BETA." "Beta" means that the service is still being tested, and isn't ready for full release. So, what I want to know is why the entire user base of Yahoo was put onto a profile system that hasn't moved out of beta testing yet. There is no way that is good practice.

    In all seriousness, this should have been finished and declared done before a change like this was made.

    • by mixmatch (957776)
      Sounds like Yahoo is trying to be more like Google with the Beta thing. Some things have no logical explanation except that they follow an existing trend.
    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:19AM (#25429121)
      Ah, but you see, they've changed the nomenclature on us. 'Beta code' no longer means 'computer code that is mostly usable, but still in testing', but rather means 'beta is code for never saying that you promised usability, uptime, or data retention'.
      • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

        And all this time I thought Beta meant "Hey look at me, I'm trying to be cool"

      • Ah, but you see, they've changed the nomenclature on us. 'Beta code' no longer means 'computer code that is mostly usable, but still in testing', but rather means 'beta is code for never saying that you promised usability, uptime, or data retention'.

        Yes, and we do have Google to thank for that redefinition.

      • 'Beta' now means "it's cool because it's new." It's 0-day for the masses.

      • Ah, but you see, they've changed the nomenclature on us. 'Beta code' no longer means 'computer code that is mostly usable, but still in testing', but rather means 'beta is code for never saying that you promised usability, uptime, or data retention'.

        To be perfectly frank, the former does imply the latter; so the nomenclature is still valid.

    • by Kneo24 (688412)

      What I want to know why this format feels worse? I honestly never tried uploading a picture before, but I'm doing it now. I honestly have no fucking idea what the dimensions should be. I started out with something huge, and it asked me to crop it down (leaving about a third of the width missing if I leave everything height in wise), which is no good. So I went to a smaller dimension, which was about 400x 360, same fucking things. So I tried smaller, 196x172, same thing! It didn't matter what dimension it wa

  • Ya who? (Score:5, Funny)

    by symbolset (646467) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @12:50AM (#25428967) Homepage Journal

    Are they not dead yet? Next you'll tell me AOL is still around.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They're just practicing for when Microsoft buys them out. Microsoft has a long history of losing user data.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      While involving Microsoft, my first was a little different... "Microsoft has sabotaged Yahoo to lower their value before buying them out."

  • by bigsteve@dstc (140392) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:01AM (#25429023)
    Clearly, this is monumentally bad customer relations, and some people are going to say "they did it because they don't care". But there must be some business / technical explanation. Does anyone know what they are trying to achieve by reseting the profiles? Is this a necessary fallout from some change in their profile infrastructure? Or did they just plain screw up?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In the past, each alias could have its own profile. Now there is only one profile per user, each alias can either refer to it or show a blank page. Every user who has used aliases will do one of two things.
      1) Keep one account with one profile, thus reducing the amount of disk spaced used.
      Or...
      2) Create a new full account for each alias desired, thus artificially boosting Yahoo's user count.

      Either way, it's a win for Yahoo! Assuming the users don't revolt.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raehl (609729)

      To obliterate over a decade of cruft accumulation?

      Most Yahoo profiles were created by spammers. I bet a year from now, anything that hasn't been updated gets deleted entirely, freeing up a lot of the username space.

  • and nobody's complaining.

    • by mixmatch (957776)
      I personally lost nothing in the change. Maybe that's why.
    • by Tacvek (948259) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:36AM (#25429189) Journal

      Nobody is complaining? Everybody in the Relevant Google Groups are complaining! http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Web_Search_Help-Personalizing/topics [google.com]

      Most of the trackbacks for the Google Blog post announcing the change were negative, although Googleblog admins have since removed those trackbacks.

      Most people dislike the wasted space of having the tabs to the left. People Also dislike the removal of the plus feature in rss feed gadgets, since the replacement (the first 20 words or so of the text of each article) is not nearly as nice looking or functional. (This change has since been reverted.) Lastly, many people are upset that gadgets can no longer be collapsed and expanded with just a single click.

      • by raehl (609729)

        People don't like the wasted space of tabs on the left when the old profiles were designed for 600x800 resolution screens at best?

    • The side-tabbed browsing of specific modules of iGoogle has actually enhanced my experience with it. The improvements to the Gmail module were long overdue. Am I the only one who thinks the change was a good thing?
  • Stallman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moe1975 (885721) <mauriceroman@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:04AM (#25429037)

    Isn't this just the type of thing that Stallman was referring to not long ago? Granted, the particular details of this instance are not THAT alarming (people's profiles) however, it certainly goes to show . . .

    I agreed with him then, and will certainly keep it in mind.

    Moe

    • It often takes time for it to become clear just how right Stallman is but so far he always is. Why do you think his detractors focus on Herd and the GNU/Linux naming? Because they can't argue with his theories.

      First sign someone is right, his enemies attack him on non-issues.

    • by Kethinov (636034)

      Isn't this just the type of thing that Stallman was referring to not long ago? ... it certainly goes to show . . .

      Goes to show what? That using web services is "just as bad as using a proprietary program" as Stallman put it? Did you bother to think through Stallman's position? If he had his way, there'd be no GMail, no Flickr, hell, probably not even any Slashdot. Because you know, Slashdot's a web service. And by having personal information on a Slashdot account, well then you're just "putty in the hands o

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Moe1975 (885721)

        Interesting, how the entire concept behind this particular opinion by Stallman has COMPLETELY gone over your head guy. I suspect his other theories and opinions do so as well.

        Here it is, nice and simple: by using someone else's hardware and software to do your computing and store your data, you risk losing access to and control over said hardware and software resources, as well as your data.

        Now, please don't try to make me list all the possible scenarios, or explain it to you any further - I have no patienc

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kethinov (636034)

          by using someone else's hardware and software to do your computing and store your data, you risk losing access to and control over said hardware and software resources, as well as your data.

          Then run for the hills! Abandon your Slashdot account immediately because it's an evil web service that you can't control! Go run your own web server for your own IMAP email, or abandon IMAP entirely and use POP! Look, contrary to your condescending attitude, I understand Stallman's argument perfectly. And like plenty of [arstechnica.com]

  • Why so hard to fix? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZorinLynx (31751) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:16AM (#25429099) Homepage

    I don't get it. If they still have the data, why is it so hard for them to write up a script to fix the mistake?

    It shouldn't take one of their programmers more than a few hours to whip up, and would save them all this headache.

    I wonder if there's more behind this "accident" than we're seeing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Trails (629752)

      It wasn't an accident. From the article, it looks like they fundamentally changed their profile/account structure (note I'm not a yahoo user, this is simply from RTFA).

      It seems to "migrate" existing data to the new structure is not clear-cut and linear. In theory, they could have built some user facing tools to allow the users to choose different data migration paths, although this would invariably involve a ton of additional complexity, which is probably why they opted not to do it.

      I suspect this is bein

      • I just redid my profile, and it did automatically fill my interests field for the new profile with my interests from my old profile.

        I didn't really have much else there. Photos had already been moved elsewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rumith (983060)

      I don't get it. If they still have the data, why is it so hard for them to write up a script to fix the mistake?

      Because they insist that it wasn't a mistake and, generally, they wanted people's profiles clean. Now if this is true or not remains to be seen: they could be covering up their asses by saying it was intentional, because a company that accidentally kills or blocks your data would receive event less trust than a company that does it intentionally. So practically by this announcement they could be choosing the lesser of the two evils.

  • I know why (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Orion Blastar (457579) <orionblastar@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:37AM (#25429207) Homepage Journal

    There used to be clever hacks in the old Yahoo Profiles to modify your profile to do things like play MIDI files and change the background and run Javascripts via a series of exploits in the way the Yahoo data forms worked.

    Yahoo wants to get rid of the exploits by wiping clean every profile after it fixes the exploits. Some of the exploits stole passwords and other data and some even installed malware.

    I don't mind having a blank profile, I am not really notable anyway. I am a pirate ninja and just love to blend into the background so nobody can notice me as I turn invisible. :)

  • by hack slash (1064002) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:38AM (#25429209)
    10 PERSON has good idea and sets up internet COMPANY
    20 PEOPLE eventually flock to COMPANY and use their services
    30 TIME passes
    40 COMPANY bosses get itchy and need to scratch, read: they feel they need to be 'innovative' and/or they feel they aren't making enough money
    50 CHANGES happen to site which affects users ability to conduct their business (buying/selling/communicating etc.)
    60 PEOPLE are fucked off with CHANGES and complain bitterly
    70 COMPANY ignores PEOPLE
    80 GOTO 30
  • by SideshowBob (82333) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:50AM (#25429263)

    And this is a perfect example of why I will NEVER use 'cloud computing'. My data on my hardware that I have complete control of, thank you.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Your data should be safer on a properly maintained cloud than it is on your own hardware. I think in this case though, while Yahoo did get income from people using it, the people who's data they were storing would not have any recourse should their data get lost. I haven't read the EULA, but I think it's safe to say that it has something in it along the lines of "If we screw up and lose all your data you can assured that the sympathy you receive from us will be of the highest quality".

      On the other hand, a c

    • ... but the biting irony of posting this on Slashdot as anything but an AC is just too delicious.

      I mean, how much different is a /. profile from a yahoo profile, really?
  • by wdr1 (31310) * <wdr1 AT pobox DOT com> on Sunday October 19, 2008 @01:53AM (#25429271) Homepage Journal

    I worked at Yahoo for five years. I have no idea who's left (most folks I knew have also since left), but this is a clear sign of losing focus on the user. First there was the draconian booting of everyone off the old version of My Yahoo! [wdr1.com] & now this.

    Why do people get to make decisions like this & keep their jobs?

  • by TwinkieStix (571736) on Sunday October 19, 2008 @02:13AM (#25429375) Homepage
    I believe that everything is still there at the old address right? http://edit.yahoo.com/config/eval_profile [yahoo.com] Or, am I missing something?
  • by bmecoli (963615)
    Suppose you have a PC that's infested with all sorts of malware. Your first instinct is to just format and reinstall, right?

    ok, with that in mind, who's to say that the staff at yahoo saw the thousands (millions?) of spam profiles with links to porn/malware sites and decided "you know what, fuck it, we can just start with a clean slate. The users who aren't bots can always get their data back anyway."

    You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, you know?
    • Suppose you have a PC that's infested with all sorts of malware. Your first instinct is to just format and reinstall, right?

      ok, with that in mind, who's to say that the staff at yahoo saw the thousands (millions?) of spam profiles with links to porn/malware sites and decided "you know what, fuck it, we can just start with a clean slate. The users who aren't bots can always get their data back anyway."

      You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, you know?

      In my opinion, you're not wrong, but you're missing an important detail. It happened suddenly. I mean, is there a reason that they couldn't have made it clear like a week in advance that they were doing it? It'd still be obnoxious, but skimming the thread so far, I think the big issue here is distrust over blackouts.

  • I really wouldn't want to be on the "Customer Care" team, dealing with all the pissed off people that will be asking for their data.

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