Yahoo bolsters mail app

Yahoo is pushing forward its Open Strategy initiative with improvements to Yahoo Mail and other services.

Yahoo unveiled on Monday improvements to its Web properties, including customization capabilities for Yahoo Mail and direct integration with third-party sites like Flickr.

An advanced Yahoo toolbar also was revealed, featuring constant access to essential tasks. Additionally, the company is providing updates between the Yahoo Music and Yahoo TV sites via Yahoo Updates, offering visibility into online activities of connections across the Yahoo network. My Yahoo, which offers a more personalized interface for Yahoo, is being fitted with the ability to link to third-party applications.

Yahoo showed off its host of improvements at a press event in San Francisco on Monday. The company with its efforts seeks to leverage social application capabilities. Innovations are part of Yahoo Open Strategy, which is intended to provide a more socially relevant Web experience.

With Yahoo Mail, the company is offering what it calls a "smarter inbox."

"Yahoo Mail is what we consider a key starting point on the Web. It's got 275 million monthly global users," said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail.

The smarter inbox, which is being rolled out to users on a limited basis in coming months, features a new Welcome Page that surfaces messages, information, and activity updates from persons of most concern to the user. An updated inbox and folder view filters messages from personal connections. Users also can get immediate access to relevant third-party applications.

"We really believe opening up Yahoo Mail will have a game-changing influence on the industry," Kremer said. Developers with Monday's rollout gain access to documentation and guidelines for building applications that run on the new mail canvas, according to Yahoo.

A limited beta testing program has started for bringing in third-party applications into Yahoo Mail. Users will be able to access these applications from within the Yahoo Mail interface. Initial applications include Family Journal, for building a family tree; Flickr, for photo-sharing; Flixster, for sharing movie show times; WordPress, for posting photos and links to a WordPress blog; Xoopit, for sharing photos stored in e-mail, and Yahoo Greetings, to send e-cards.

Also, Yahoo Updates is being integrated into Yahoo Mail.

The new Yahoo Toolbar, available in a sneak preview later this week, checks new e-mails from Yahoo and other Web-based e-mail providers, monitors and searches for items on eBay and finds local movie show times. The toolbar also alerts users about Updates from personal connections. Personal search suggestions surface the sites a user has visited and provides search results in the toolbar.

With the My Yahoo update, users can enhance personal start pages by adding applications created by third-party developers via the Yahoo Application Platform. Applications will range from productivity tools to games. The company also is launching a My Yahoo Theme API for third-party designers to build and share their own look and feel for My Yahoo pages.

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Paul Krill

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