Having to toggle between e-mail and instant messaging has been the plight of the Internet-savvy since IMs first popped on the scene back in the 1990s. For the digital clutter-phobes looking for a two-in-one approach to communication, Yahoo has developed a new, more integrated solution.
Following through on plans initially announced in November last year, Yahoo has brought an instant-messenger feature into the beta version of its new e-mail program, fusing the two platforms and eliminating the need to run the programs separately.
The rollout begins this week and the company expects to make the integrated e-mail/IM functionality available to all Yahoo Mail users over the coming months. It's a move that analysts say represents a bid on the part of Yahoo to stay competitive against rivals MSN, AOL, and Google.
Essentially, the new messaging features will allow Yahoo Mail users to see if their contacts are logged on to Yahoo Mail, and then chat with them. Users also will be able to see the online status of contacts that have the Yahoo Messenger application installed.
Another notable feature will allow Yahoo users to send an instant message in response to an e-mail if the contact is online. If the instant message option is selected, a window will appear within the e-mail client to continue the conversation there.
Each instant messaging dialogue will take place in a new conversation tab within Yahoo! Mail, allowing people to chat with multiple friends or business associates simultaneously, without logging out of e-mail. Users will also have the option of converting e-mails immediately into IMs, or vice versa.
At a time when e-mail is beginning to show its age, and more and more users are moving toward instant messaging as the preferred means of communication, combining e-mail with IM has become an attractive option, said David M. Smith, a Gartner analyst, in a recent interview.
"These companies are trying to make the user experience more seamless and bring more context to these collaborations," he said. "Tying instant messaging and e-mail together is part of a continued attempt to bridge networks and bring more users together."
Keeping It Simple
Recently, several Internet companies have looked to leverage all their services without making the technology too complicated for the less tech-savvy users. Google, for example, recently merged its Google Talk chat service with its Gmail program.
But Yahoo has been at the e-mail game far longer than its archrival. Yahoo's e-mail service has a member list some 10 times larger than that of Google's. Additionally, Yahoo users will be able to chat with users of Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger, thanks to both companies ironing out an instant-messaging pact last year.
As for the other big two in the Web-based e-mail game, AOL and Microsoft have not yet integrated chat into their own e-mail programs. However, Smith said he expects each to be following close behind. "They all end up doing the same things," he said.