Starting today, some Yahoo Mail subscribers will start to see new features and tools in the inbox, reflecting the company's push to look more like a platform instead of a portal.
On the surface, Yahoo is launching some cool stuff - a deeper integration between mail messages and sites such as Flickr, as well as a social networking tool that allows you and others to become "connections." The filtering of mail helps you sort between the mail you want (correspondences with friends, for example) and the mail you get (newsletters, special offers, and so on.) And in the future, there will be more integration with third-party apps, as well as deeper filtering options based on your address book.
Overall, it seems pretty easy to manage and I'm looking forward to spending some time with it, though I do have one small issue: If Yahoo wanted to jump right into social networking within the mailbox, they should have launched this effort with access to the Yahoo Address Book, instead of making it a "coming soon" feature. After all, the first thing that any social networking site - Facebook, MySpace and others - does is to try to tap directly into your e-mail address book to start building social relationships.
Looking beyond the bells and whistles of the new inbox, there's a more significant thing happening here - and it's clearly evident by the language used in Yahoo's video clip about the new features. In that clip, the narrator refers to all the things you can do "without leaving the friendly confines of Yahoo Mail" and how "all types of things you'd typically have to leave Mail to do, you can now do right here within Mail."
After all, if there's one property within Yahoo where it is the leader, it's Mail. The new mailbox could be the way to keep those users connected to the Yahoo site for an extended period of time. The new service is rolling out to users over the coming months as part of the company's push into an open strategy. (Techmeme)
These days, it's anyone's guess what direction the company will take next, what with the turmoil caused by widespread layoffs, an uncertain economic outlook and the search for a new CEO. But it is reassuring that someone was still around on Monday morning to pull the trigger on an initiative that could one of the company's most important under these conditions.
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