Yahoo Mail gains IM integration

Yahoo to activate new, beta version of Yahoo Mail this week

Yahoo will soon start to fulfil a promise it made to users several months ago to tie its new Web mail service with its instant messaging application.

Starting this week and continuing over the coming months, Yahoo will activate this feature for users of the new version of Yahoo Mail, which is in beta, or test, phase but available to all users of the service.

Yahoo officials demonstrated the integration of the Yahoo Mail beta with Yahoo Messenger in November at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The audience reacted enthusiastically to the plan.

The new feature alerts Yahoo Mail beta users if their contacts are logged on to Yahoo Messenger and gives them the option of starting a text chat session from within the mail interface. If the user is composing an e-mail message but wants to chat instead, Yahoo Mail can grab the text and paste it into the text chat window. Likewise, the chat session can be automatically imported to an e-mail message form.

This integration with Yahoo Messenger is the first of several tie-ups the company plans to implement in the Yahoo Mail beta, because it wants the service to offer multiple communication options to its users, said John Kremer, Yahoo Mail's vice president.

Although he declined to confirm future plans, he acknowledged it would make sense to let Yahoo Mail users launch voice conversations and to create links to the company's social networking service, Yahoo 360. Another likely development would be to extend Yahoo Messenger's interoperability with Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger into the Yahoo Mail beta, he said.

The beta version, a free service, offers a number of improvements over the current version, including a more agile interface based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) that works like a desktop application. The beta was introduced in September 2005. Unlike typical Web mail services, it lets users drag and drop messages into folders, provides a pane to preview messages' content and offers the ability to have multiple message windows open.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service

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