Yahoo Expands Web Mail Beta
Yahoo plans to significantly expand the number of people with access to its next-generation Web mail service, which has been in test, or beta, mode for about one year.
Until now, the new Web mail service has been available to a limited number of people in the U.S. and to all users in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Canada, and South Korea.
But starting Thursday, Yahoo will roll it out to all users in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, the Philippines, Singapore, Spain, and Taiwan.
It will take about two weeks for Yahoo to complete this deployment, Yahoo spokeswoman Karen Mahon said. Yahoo plans to remove the beta tag from the new service "in the coming months," she said.
This new version is the largest overhaul of Yahoo's Web mail service since its introduction in 1997. Unlike the current version, it works like a desktop application, eliminating the delays found on many other Web-based applications.
Among its features are the ability to drag and drop messages into folders, a pane to preview the content of messages, the ability to have multiple message windows open, and keyboard shortcuts to, for example, delete or create messages. It also has an integrated RSS reader. The service's calendar tool can now present maps to appointments.
This new version extends the traditional Web mail concept from a simple mailbox to a broader central information repository that not only handles e-mail messages, but integrates RSS management, calendaring, and instant messaging, and this makes it a significant upgrade, said Allen Weiner, a Gartner analyst.
Competition in the once languid Web mail market heated up in April 2004 when Google launched its Gmail service. Since then, Web mail providers such as Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL have been busy retooling their services, dramatically increasing storage capacity, sharpening spam and e-mail filters, and giving user interfaces extreme makeovers.
Much is at stake in the Web mail wars, because the level of attachment users form with their e-mail accounts is much higher than with other online services. A strong Web mail service serves as a user-magnet for portals with other online services. Web mail services have also proved effective for advertising.