Yahoo might be coming to the party a little late, but the search prince has finally shown up with a Web-based version of its instant-messaging application to compete with rivals Google and Microsoft.
Yahoo released the Web-based version of its messaging tool on Wednesday. The new offering lets chatters use Yahoo Messenger through any Web browser and allows users to search current and archived messages.
"Yahoo Messenger for the Web offers functions that the downloaded version does not," the company said in a statement. "Consumers can, for example, maintain multiple conversations in one window with different tabs instead of opening up chats in multiple windows."
Increasing IM Usage
Yahoo's new play might be attractive to messaging fanatics who, for security reasons, are barred from downloading client software to workplace computers. It might also appeal to travelers who want to keep up their IM conversations in hotels, as well as to people in developing nations who rely on Internet cafes to stay connected.
Yahoo is already the most popular IM service in India, according to comScore data, and also wears the crown in the Philippines and in Vietnam. Microsoft's messaging service is the most popular on a global scale, but Yahoo might gain some ground with its Web-based application that is being launched in the U.S., Brazil, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam and works in English, Portuguese, Vietnamese, and traditional Chinese.
Jennifer Simpson, an analyst at Yankee Group, called Yahoo's move to offer IM through a Web-based platform "interesting." If Yahoo positions its new offering from the home page, she added, it could drive awareness and increase participation. "Offering IM in a client you don't have to download will up usage because there is a fear among many users of downloading from the Internet," she noted.
The number of people using instant messaging has remained stagnant for the past several years, according to Yankee Group statistics, so raising usage is a priority across an industry that also includes AOL and Skype as key players. IM has maintained a usage rate of about 34 percent among those who regularly access the Internet, the firm reported.
But social networking could quickly change all that, especially with Web-based browsers becoming more available. Yahoo could be positioning itself to become the IM platform of choice for MySpace or some other online community.
"IMing has a very important role to play within social networking," Simpson said. "There is also a role for voice is social networking and voice is often put through IM applications."