Yahoo yesterday announced a new public beta version of its Yahoo Messenger application. Leading the instant-messaging industry in time spent per user, at least according to recent reports, the latest version of Yahoo Messenger introduces several new features and deeper integration with Yahoo services.
The latest version of Yahoo Messenger is currently the only major instant-messaging service to provide consumers with access to preprogrammed or customized radio stations available directly in the instant-messaging application. It is also one of the first major instant-messaging services to offer consumers avatars, graphical and customizable characters that represent people, and audibles, which are expressive verbal animations.
In addition, the latest version of Yahoo Messenger is designed to improve people’s ability to get the best of what they want from other popular Yahoo services. Integration of such services as Yahoo Games is designed to make it easier for fans to play two-person games, including chess, checkers and dominoes, directly in the instant-messaging window.
Deeper Integration with Yahoo Services
Deeper integration with Yahoo Search through new search shortcuts — which are built directly into the messenger app — is designed to make sharing results with friends easier.
New features, such as enhanced access to contacts — including e-mail and mobile information — through Yahoo AddressBook, and the ability to be seen by certain friends of choice through the stealth mode feature, provide an easy way for people to manage relationships and communicate in real-time.
“With this newest version of Yahoo Messenger, we are changing the instant messaging landscape by introducing new ways for people to express, share, and manage, making instant messaging more essential to their lives,” said Lisa Pollock Mann, senior director of messaging products at Yahoo.
“By integrating unique features with compelling services from across our network, Yahoo! Messenger continues to enable powerful interactions between friends and family,” Mann said.
New Features in Yahoo Messenger
With this newest version of Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo is attempting to build on its history of instant-messaging developments. The new messenger, available for free, includes the following new features:
Using IM in Business
Users who rely on instant messaging for business can eliminate many of Yahoo’s novelty features. For example, a user can designate an animated avatar to be pictured in a message to a friend and a static icon for communication with a business contact.
Messenger users already were able to sign in as “invisible,” which allows them to see which buddies are online but not appear to them, but the update extends that feature, allowing users to appear visible to selected buddies only while remaining in stealth mode to others.
As before, content tabs on the interface can be configured according to work or home preferences, giving users the option to show only the ones they use. Interface settings are stored on local PCs, allowing different experiences at work and at home. However, the new version is likely to be incompatible with Trillian and other third-party programs that create a composite interface for several IM products.
The company cites a study by the Radicati Group that forecasts 305 million IM users worldwide by the end of the year. Most of those are young adults. A Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that college students are twice as likely to send instant messages in a day than other Internet users, and that 74 percent of online teens use IM.
Yahoo notes that Gartner researchers expect instant messaging as a communication technology will surpass e-mail as the primary online communications tool by 2005.