This morning Yahoo will announce that they will integrate an Ajax version of Yahoo Instant Messaging directly into the new Yahoo Mail beta. Unlike Google’s integration of Google Talk with Gmail earlier this year, Yahoo is combining the products into a single interface. Yahoo says the new features will launch in the next two months.
I saw a beta of the product earlier today at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. When addressing a new email, a pop-up window appears to select an address book suggestion, along with the option to send an instant message if the person is currently online. If the user selects an instant message instead of an email, a slightly different interface appears that allows the two users to send instant messages to each other. If one user drops out of the conversation, the other user has the option to auto-paste the conversation into an email and finish the conversation. See the screen shot below for a visual of how the product will appear. This is all done in the browser with Ajax.
Users will quickly get used to flipping quickly between email and IM depending on “presence” – whether or not the person they are communicating with is online. IM conversations will eventually be archived and stored in the same manner as emails, allowing users to drag old conversations into folders in the sidebar.
An additional notation is also being made in the sidebar to let email users know which of their stored contacts are online currently. Multiple current IM conversations are organized by horizontal tabs.
Yahoo Mail continues to surge in worldwide and U.S. usage v. Gmail – Yahoo claims that Yahoo Mail gained more new U.S. users that in the first nine months of 2006 than total U.S. Gmail users to date. Comscore backs this claim up, reporting 250 million worldwise users of Yahoo Mail to Google’s 51 million (September 2006) (see chart to left).
The number of IM users worldwide is still very small compared to web-based email users – 80 million IM users v. nearly 500 million web mail users. Yahoo hopes to introduce IM to the large percentage of Yahoo webmail users who’ve never tried IM.
We continue to prefer Yahoo Mail over Gmail because Yahoo Mail allows POP access to third party email services, whereas Gmail only allows access to Google’s own email service.