YahooMail to be More Like Outlook

Yahoo is Beta testing a massive upgrade of its YahooMail service that will make it look more like Outlook.

Yahoo to Begin Testing E-mail Upgrade (AP)

Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday will begin testing a sleeker version of its free e-mail service, shifting to a more dynamic design that mimics the look and feel of a computer desktop application like Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook. The company plans to invite a “sizable” portion of its current e-mail accountholders to experiment with the retooled service, said Yahoo spokeswoman Karen Mahon, who declined to be more specific. If the test goes well, all of Yahoo’s e-mail users — an audience that spans tens of millions — eventually will be converted to the new system.

Yahoo imported most of the changes from Oddpost, an e-mail startup the company bought for an undisclosed amount last year. The overhaul, described as the most extensive since Yahoo began offering free e-mail accounts eight years ago, represents the latest salvo in a technological tug-of-war for online traffic.

For the past two years, Yahoo and its main Internet rivals — Google Inc., AOL and Microsoft’s MSN.com — have been unveiling a series of upgrades aimed at attracting and retaining their Web audiences so they remain appealing outlets for advertisers. Google, which runs the Internet’s most popular search engine, shook things up in the e-mail market last year by introducing a free service that included 250 times more storage than some of its rivals. Yahoo and MSN subsequently matched Google, which responded by more than doubling its e-mail storage limit to 2.5 gigabytes.

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Yahoo’s e-mail service is currently leading the pack, with 63.6 million unique U.S. visitors during July, according to the most recent figures from comScore Media Metrix, a research firm. AOL ranked second with 48.7 million visitors followed by MSN’s Hotmail (44.4 million), Comcast Corp.’s Webmail (5.6 million) and Google’s Gmail (5.4 million).

With its changes, Yahoo’s e-mail will look more like a traditional inbox that operates through a software program installed on a computer hard drive instead of being hosted on the Internet. Yet Yahoo’s redesigned service still relies on a Web browser and won’t require its users to install anything on their computers. Using “dynamic” html, Yahoo’s e-mail accounts will feature an inbox containing all e-mails on the top of the page with a separate pane for reading e-mail below it. The feature is meant to enable users to scroll through an e-mail folder without having to click back and forth between Web pages. Yahoo’s test audience also will use a computer mouse to “drag and drop” e-mails from one folder to another and search all the content, including attachments, stored in the inbox.

I signed up for the Beta test myself, although I have not heard back yet.

I’m surprised that Gmail is trailing the pack by such a distance, as the huge mailbox it offers is quite nice and its searchability makes it the best of the pack, in my view. I still use my Yahoo account for several organizational/recreational activities because the ability to sort things permanently into folders is quite handy. Gmail is far handier for ordinary mail, though, Indeed, though I have the ability to have 40 accounts on the OTB domain, I haven’t used my POP accounts in months, other than to occasionally check to see if I’ve gotten anything important from people who haven’t gotten the word.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bryan says:

    I’m surprised that Gmail is trailing the pack by such a distance, as the huge mailbox it offers is quite nice and its searchability makes it the best of the pack, in my view.

    I was reading about this yesterday. Apparently, folders are a blind spot for Google, much the same way that two-button mice were for Steve Jobs until recently.

    They don’t comprehend why you would need folders when you can just search the entire mailbox. I expect them to bow to “tradition” and common sense sometime after they roll out a few more variations on the search engine theme.

  2. Josh Cohen says:

    Folders are the only reason I don’t use Gmail more exclusively. Yahoo Mail is my main e-mail client.

    I really don’t like the idea of them becoming an outlook express clone, though. My company has a web version of OE/Exchange, and it runs sloooooooooooow. I like Yahoo Mail because it’s faster and more reliable than Hotmail, and the spam filter is far, far better.