In what can only be called awfully suspicious timing, Yahoo has turned off automatic email forwarding—a crucial feature when changing email accounts—for Yahoo Mail users. Anyone who has already enabled the feature is not affected, but others cannot activate it.
On its help pages, Yahoo says mail forwarding is currently under development. “While we work to improve it, we’ve temporarily disabled the ability to turn on Mail Forwarding for new forwarding addresses,” the help page says.
Mail forwarding was turned off in early October, as first reported by The Associated Press. It’s not clear if Yahoo turned off mail forwarding just before or just after news broke on October 4 of Yahoo’s compliance with U.S. spy agencies to scan users’ mail. Yahoo later called those reports “misleading.”
The spying controversy was preceded by news in late September that at least 500 million Yahoo user account details were compromised by hackers.
That’s what makes Yahoo’s mail forwarding suspension so curious. It comes just after two highly controversial disclosures—news that may have encouraged users to dump Yahoo Mail in droves for competitors like Gmail or Outlook.com, right at the time that Yahoo’s finalizing a multi-billion dollar sale to Verizon. It’s not clear if that’s the case, but Yahoo’s actions do make you wonder.
Update: A Yahoo spokesperson passed along the following statement:
“We’re working to get auto-forward back up and running as soon as possible because we know how useful it can be to our users. The feature was temporary disabled as part of previously planned maintenance to improve its functionality between a user’s various accounts. Users can expect an update to the auto-forward functionality soon. In the meantime, we continue to support multiple account management.”
The impact on you at home: It’s hard to believe that a company that works on PGP encryption features and killing the password can’t figure out how to automatically forward email—a feature that’s been standard for years. Nevertheless, what’s a Yahoo Mail user to do if they want to leave? Right now, the best solution is to use a mail client to obtain all your past mail via POP and then archive it. (Thunderbird can do the trick.) After that, you can set a vacation auto reply in Yahoo Mail with your new email address so that everyone knows where to contact you. During the first few days of the transition you’ll probably have to check your mail regularly until everyone gets the message.