Buy AT&T/Yahoo DSL and get... e-mail ads!

Customers are angry over new, large ads in AT&T/Yahoo DSL service.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
3 min read

Customers paying for AT&T and Yahoo's co-branded DSL service are outraged about ads that started showing up over the last few weeks that take up quite a bit of real estate on the page. A chunky "skyscraper" ad now runs up and down the right side of the page. There have always been ads on Yahoo's free Web-based e-mail service, but paying customers say the monthly fees they pay should be enough to spare them the advertising.

"AT&T Yahoo has inserted advertising into every corner and crevice of the AT&T Yahoo 7 Browser interface for email," one CNET News.com reader wrote in an e-mail. "Users of AT&T Yahoo are outraged. The company said that they needed to provide this 'feature' to give us 'unlimited storage space.' Most of us didn't want 'unlimited storage space.'"

"I'm perfectly fine with ads, but not of this enormous size. I'm completely appalled," wrote one customer in a forum on the Broadband Reports site.

"I will gladly pay more for no advertising...so why don't you charge me more and for those unwilling to pay more... you can SPAM them!!!" another wrote. "I am so angry I think steam must be coming out of my ears."

The situation prompted Nate Anderson of tech news site Ars Technica to post a humorous "letter" to Yahoo this week:

"So I get a graphical ad on the right side of the screen. Not cool, but ok, whatever. But it didn't stop there. Small text ads have appeared just above my 'Inbox' and three more are positioned just below my list of custom folders. They look 'cluttery,' like the knickknack shelf above my grandma's fireplace with its collection of wooden owls. Also, you've tacked an ad to the 'sent mail' confirmation screen. Thanks! Diving into this with both feet, I see."

Someone has even posed a question on Yahoo Answers asking how to get rid of the ads:

"When Yahoo/AT&T/SBC switched to adding ads in the browser page of my email, at first I was 'eh...it's not so bad' but now, its causing issues with my computer. Or at least it seems that way. Email takes along time to load, it stutters as it loads. Just annoying. Any suggestions other than use a different mail browser?"

Sadly, as of three days later there was not one answer.

Yahoo's answer to me, via a spokesman, was that they have received "minimal feedback" about the ads and that it was a "business decision by both companies to do this."

Then the canned e-mail Yahoo statement arrived: "This will serve as a new source of revenue to help maintain our commitment of delivering a leading broadband experience complete with industry leading features at a competitive price. As we remain committed to providing users with the best possible online experience, the new advertisements will be carefully integrated and aimed at being useful to consumers."

Hmmmm. "Carefully integrated" and "useful?" Try again.

Maybe Yahoo should take a cue from Microsoft. The software giant provoked a similar response early on when it tested skyscraper ads, but decided to drop the ads and forgo the revenue.

Update 10:00 a.m. June 22: I received e-mails and reader feedback noting that although Yahoo claims not to have received a lot of customer complaints about this matter there are pages and pages and pages on Yahoo's own Yodel Anecdotal blog of angry barbs written by customers furious about the ads. Too many comments to count. I'd say that's not so "minimal."