:) Yahoo Activ8s Txt on Ur E-Mail

Yahoo launched a new version of its Web-based mail service Monday, incorporating advanced communication functions it says have not been offered before.

The new version of Yahoo Mail includes “real-time communication” in the form of instant messaging and SMS (short message service) text messaging as well as several other performance enhancements that will mainly benefit those with up-to-date computers.

Users of Yahoo Mail, a Web-based mail service first launched a decade ago, can now send free text messages to cell phones in the United States, Canada, India and the Philippines, said Yahoo. They are also capable of firing off instant messages (IMs) to people who use the Yahoo Messenger and Windows Live Messenger IM services.

Get Out of Beta

Yahoo tested the features in a beta period during which the company sought and received suggestions from users, said Yahoo Mail Vice President John Kremer. “We have always been focused on making it easy for people to connect to those who matter most to them, and during the beta testing period of the new Yahoo Mail, we were able to incorporate a number of enhancements based on valuable feedback from our users.”

The company recognized the popularity of social networking and, in crafting the new mail product, tried to make “a more social e-mail experience,” said Kremer. Because some of the Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)-enhanced functions now sprinkled throughout Yahoo Mail are not going to work on older computers, Yahoo is continuing to offer its “trusted Yahoo Mail Classic interface,” said Kremer.

Both versions now include unlimited e-mail storage and accessibility from any computer or mobile device without the need for a software download.

Souped Up

Yahoo promises the new Yahoo Mail is faster and more user-friendly. The company said it refined the system’s search capabilities so that users can narrowly focus their e-mail searches using filters for sender, folder, date, attachment type and message status

Right-click functionality is now available for Yahoo mail subscribers in the United States, enabling them to take additional action with underlined dates, names and keywords within messages. For example, users can right-click to add events directly to their Yahoo Calendars, add friends to their contacts, instantly view a Yahoo Map of an address or conduct a Web search.

Other enhanced features include tabbed navigation, a reading pane, an integrated calendar and an RSS reader. The new interface includes some personalization functions too. Users can choose one of six color themes.

The Web 2.0 Way to E-Mail

Yahoo said the service’s text-messaging feature is built on its IM platform. It says the “sleek, easy-to-use interface” that’s as fast and responsive as a desktop application offers “a more dynamic, Web 2.0 experience” for Web mail users. Yahoo said sending a text message is accomplished by simply entering a mobile phone number, typing the message and hitting send.

Using the instant messaging function is similarly painless, said Yahoo. “People can also easily convert their e-mail messages into IM chats or switch to a text message dialog with the click of a button, when friends come online or go mobile, and vice versa,” promised the company.

Yahoo said it partnered with AT&T, Verizon and the Canada-based Rogers Yahoo Hi-Speed Internet to offer “co-branded” versions of the new Yahoo Mail that will become available later this year. Also scheduled to come soon is a new Yahoo Mail version for Yahoo Small Business Mail users, said the company.

One-Stop Communication Shop

Yahoo has come a long way from its initial role as a search engine. The company is now a communications hub, said Yankee Group analyst Jen Simpson.

“Yahoo, among others, offers a pretty wide range of communication services now,” Simpson told TechNewsWorld. “It’s looking like a communication company as much as an Internet or software company. They are recognizing that, when people are communicating with one another through these services, there is a variety of ways they can do it.”

Simpson noted Yahoo has “a fairly large e-mail base, in the U.S. at least,” and she said the new features “do a nice job of tying people using that e-mail to one of the other additional services such as SMS texting.”

However, Yahoo is not alone in the field. Google, with its Gmail service, allows users to chat from the mail client.

Sometimes, all the bells and whistles can actually get to be too much, said tech analyst Alan Chapell of Alan Chapell Associates.

“The functionality, particularly the IM aspect, seems very cool, although I think it’s an open question regarding how many folks will use it given the myriad of alternatives,” he told TechNewsWorld.

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