Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yahoo Lets Developers Help Deliver The Mail

Yahoo made good on its promise to embrace an open-source strategy by rolling out enhancements to Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Toolbar this week, both of which are part of its Yahoo Open Source Strategy. The goal behind the Yahoo Open Source Strategy is to welcome independent developers into the fold while simultaneously positioning Yahoo as something of a social network.

The new and improved Yahoo Mail—which initially is being rolled out to a limited number of users in the U.S. and Australia—embraces social media. It's being billed by the company as a "smarter" mailbox that streamlines information and highlights other friendly Yahoo users' activities.

The company promises that the new version of its e-mail application will "surface messages, information and activity updates from people users care about most, as well as an updated inbox and folder view that filters messages from those personal connections."

The nuts and bolts of the Yahoo Mail include connections where—much like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter— users can connect with friends who use the service and designate their activity as important. The upshot, it seems, is that their activity, messages and updates will be flagged and given priority on the Yahoo Mail homescreen. The types of "activity" that Yahoo will highlight for users include interactions with Yahoo profile updates, Yahoo Buzz and TV, and music and travel selections friends are reading or talking about.

The open-source angle of the Yahoo Open Source Strategy will also come into play on the e-mail homescreen, with the search engine company allowing a limited number of third-party developers to create applications that will live in the Yahoo mail screen. Think Google Labs for Gmail or the App Store for Apple's iPhone. Yahoo hopes that by making its start page less static that users will choose to talk, share and interact with friends on their pages instead of surfing over to an established network like Facebook.

Another prong of Yahoo's Open Source Strategy is the Yahoo Toolbar, which also launched this week. The idea behind the toolbar is to give users immediate access and notifications to things like e-mail alerts, favorite Web sites and instant Web search.


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