Yahoo! showed a very well-conceived update to their webmail this morning. Essentially what they've done is blur the line between e-mail and IM chat in a way that makes utter sense. Let's say you're about to compose an e-mail to someone also on your Yahoo! Buddy List. The To: field now displays their presence if they are online and offers the option to initiate a chat session instead of composing an e-mail. Good idea, right?
It gets better. Following the demo script, I witch to chat and am happily IM'ing away with my buddy. They suddenly go offline (maybe they're using the WiFi at a conference with a ton of bloggers). A link appears in the IM stranscript window offering me the option to send them an e-mail. I click the link and an addressed e-mail composition windows opens in the same tab in my Yahoo! window. I pick up where our chat was interrupted and begin typing away.
My buddy pops back online (crazy conference WiFi) and an orange alert bar pops up at the bottom of the mail message window asking if I want to switch to IM with the person I'm e-mailing. I say yes and the text I've entered in the mail message window is copied to an IM chat ready to send.
It looks seamless. I don't know about you, but I tend to have IM-style chats with people via e-mail all the time. The notion that the two mediums can flip back and forth as connectivity changes is a really clever, fresh idea. If, as the Yahoo! presenters said, "e-mail is going through a mid-life crisis as it celebrates its 35th birthday this year", this new blending of e-mail and IM is like the shiny red Corvette in the driveway.