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Yahoo shutters email service in China

Purple! Palace! has! nothing! left! behind! the! Great! Firewall! – not! even! users’! mail! troves!

Yahoo has stopped providing email services in China – a decision that means the venerable web company has ceased operations behind the Great Firewall.

In an email dated February 26, the company advised users to shift to alternative email providers as soon as possible, and to download contacts, schedules and other important content. The email also advised the service would close on February 28 and, true to its word, Yahoo has pulled the plug.

A Yahoo Mail FAQ explains its reasons for bailing, as follows:

In recognition of the increasingly challenging business and legal environment in China, including new privacy regulations, Yahoo services will no longer be accessible from mainland China. In all other regions, Yahoo features will continue to function as expected and there will be no changes to Yahoo Mail accounts, emails, photos or other inbox content for users globally.

The service also advised users that "After February 28th, 2022 you will no longer be able to send or receive new emails from mainland China."

Users were offered handy instructions to download their email using IMAP. For users in China who can't mask their IP addresses, the chance to retrieve mail troves has probably passed.

Yahoo ditched Chinese operations in November 2021, as the Middle Kingdom's Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) came into effect.

That law requires global businesses to regulate data storage and privacy in a way that pleases Beijing – but is both stringent and vague. For example, the PIPL calls for a "clear-cut stand against historical nihilism" and encourages netizens to point out perceived "uncivilized" cyber activity to Chinese authorities.

Yahoo's search engine hasn't been available in China for several years, thanks to the Great Firewall. Yahoo China closed its email service on 19 August 2013. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba bought 20 per cent stake in Yahoo in 2012 for $7.1 billion and from there managed the Chinese mail migration under the Yahoo brand under a tech and IP cross-licensing deal.

Yahoo isn't alone in leaving China. Microsoft pulled LinkedIn out of the Middle Kingdom in October 2021, citing "a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China." ®

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