Unavoidable Decisions with Yahoo! Messenger

One of the tenets in designing large multiuser systems like Yahoo! Messenger is that one user should not be able to overly disrupt another, or force another to take some action. Yahoo! Messenger generally does a good job with this, but has long had one failing that really bothers me.

For whatever reason, I seem to be a popular target for random people wanting to add me to their “friends list.” I wake up in the morning to find a Yahoo! Messenger dialog on my screen that looks like this:

99% of the time, I have no idea who the person is, and checking their profile has always lead to no extra information. Is this a long-lost friend getting in touch? A kook pestering hundreds of people a day? A crook trying to lure me to a phishing site? A spammer checking for “live” IDs? I generally have no idea, but considering that the number of evil people in the world exceeds the number of my long lost friends, chances are it's someone up to no good.

What I want to do is to just ignore the request, a technical equivalent of a “no comment.” If it's indeed someone who wants to contact me specifically (rather than someone trolling for victims), they'll try again, or send me a note introducing themselves.

However, Yahoo! Messenger has been designed such that a random person can force me into making a decision. There's no “ignore” or “close” or “cancel” button on that dialog.

I don't want to explicitly allow them because of the high probability it's someone being a pest, at best, or at worst, evil. I know that the default is that they can view me (and as such, doing nothing is the technical equivalent of allowing them), but it just feels wrong that I have no choice but to explicitly allow them.

Of course, I could go ahead and explicitly bar them from seeing me and from contacting me, but I don't want to do that due to the possibility that they are a long-lost friend, or, at least, someone clueful wishing a real discourse.

I don't know why Yahoo! has chosen to do it this way, but I wish they'd fix it. This aside, I really enjoy Yahoo! Messenger. It's an exceptional value for what I pay (nothing), so I have no real right to complain, but it's technically so wrong that the engineer in me has to speak up.

By the way, the bit of desktop background seen behind the dilaog above is my Colors of Kyoto background.


All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

A perl of an open-source IM called Pidgin (a.ka. Gaim) supports multiple protocols such as Y!M. Ever tried it? Maybe the developers over there would be open to your “no comment” option.

— comment by Andy on April 20th, 2007 at 3:34pm JST (10 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

I talk about this problem so many time with my favorite Yahoo! contact.
And submit same idea like you to allow us to ignore no-comment invits, or to set comment as a required field.

NB: so many Yahoo!Messenger users (with or without my YMPlus addon) try to add my “oliezekat” nickname which is not my primary account :o| .oO(I desesperate not use it)

— comment by Olivier D. alias ze kat on April 20th, 2007 at 8:15pm JST (10 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

This happens to me to and finally I started to ask some of these people where they get my ID, and they told me from some random dating site!!!! I’ve never even heard of the site let alone have my ID anywhere near there.

— comment by kevin on September 7th, 2007 at 3:40pm JST (10 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
Leave a comment...


All comments are invisible to others until Jeffrey approves them.

Please mention what part of the world you're writing from, if you don't mind. It's always interesting to see where people are visiting from.


You can use basic HTML; be sure to close tags properly.

Subscribe without commenting