Yahoo stops email service for mainland users in final retreat from China

·3 min read

US internet company Yahoo said it would officially stop providing email services to mainland Chinese users from February 28 onwards, following its announcement in November that it was withdrawing from China, where foreign websites such as Google's search engine and Twitter have been unavailable for years.

After Monday, Yahoo Mail users "will no longer be able to send or receive new emails from mainland China or download data", the Sunnyvale, California-based company said in an email sent to mainland users on Saturday, urging them to back up emails, contacts and calendar events in their accounts before the deadline.

The company also stressed that Yahoo Mail would remain available for global users outside mainland China, although it did not elaborate on why it was pulling out of the market.

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Yahoo sounds final retreat in China amid tightened regulation

Yahoo Mail's retreat comes after the company announced late last year that its suite of services would no longer be accessible on the mainland. By then, Yahoo's weather app and news page, as well as the mainland Chinese version of its consumer tech blog Engadget were already unavailable.

The move came amid tightened data and user privacy regulations in China. They include the Personal Information Protection Law, one of the world's toughest on personal data security, which has been compared to the General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union.

Along with the Cybersecurity Law, which took effect in May 2017, and the Data Security Law, which was implemented in September, these regulations have provided the Chinese government with a range of tools to restrict cross-border data flows and keep data within the country.

Microsoft's LinkedIn, the professional social media network, pulled its global platform from China last year, citing "a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements" in the country.

LinkedIn launches China-only app without social feed

On social media over the weekend, some Chinese netizens mourned the end of Yahoo's services in the country. "This is the end of an era, and it feels like our generation is always 'witnessing history'," said a user on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblogging site.

Many other netizens appeared to confuse Yahoo's latest move with the closure of the company's localised email service in China in 2013. "I thought they had already pulled out a few years back?" said one of the most upvoted comments on Weibo.

Yahoo, which launched its Chinese internet operations in 1999, shut its last remaining physical presence in the country in March 2015, when its research and development operation in Beijing was closed. Its news and community services in China were terminated in 2013.

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