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 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 Ã¢€” an audience that spans tens of millions Ã¢€” 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 Ã¢€” Google Inc., AOL and Microsoft’s MSN.com Ã¢€” 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.
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.