Yahoo is looking to better compete against cloud e-mail rivals Google Gmail and Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail with a massive Yahoo Mail update the company bills as the "best Yahoo Mail ever."
Yahoo said it will roll out the beta version of the latest version of Yahoo Mail to its 284 million users over the next few weeks. With the update, Yahoo promises a cloud e-mail offering that is "faster, safer, easier to use, and offers a seamless experience across PC, mobile and tablet devices." Yahoo is also promising "unlimited storage," which if actually unlimited beats out Gmail's 7.5 GB.
While several of the new features bear striking resemblance to some of the capabilities added in recent updates to Google Gmail and last year's major Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail revamp, Yahoo claims that its new Yahoo Mail will run two times faster than previous versions and includes a host of capabilities that were unavailable to Yahoo Mail users.
Yahoo Mail is in a perpetual three-way cloud e-mail battle with competitors Google Gmail and Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail. Gmail has been consistently chipping away at Yahoo Mail's market share. According to recent research from comScore Inc., Yahoo Mail had 277 million users globally through April 2011, a dip of 1 percent, or 3 million, from a year prior.
Meanwhile, Google's Gmail increased a whopping 24 percent, or 43 million, to hit 220 million users worldwide. And while Hotmail remains the global leader with 327 million users globally, Google Gmail and Yahoo Mail have eaten away at its dominance, as Hotmail's user tally was down 27 million, or 8 percent, from between 2010 and 2011.
"Yahoo's vision for online communications brings together all the tools that people use to connect -- e-mail, chat, SMS, and social updates -- and makes it easier for them to share content and engage in conversations with the people that matter most to them," said Blake Irving, Yahoo chief product officer, in a statement. "We're delivering on this strategy with the latest version of Yahoo Mail, providing our hundreds of millions of users worldwide with a fun, engaging and constantly connected experience across desktop, mobile and tablet devices that keeps the conversation going -- anytime, anywhere."
The new Yahoo Mail adds a host of social networking capabilities, which let users respond to messages from Facebook, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Mail and other Webmail providers with a reply bar. Users can also view photo slideshows, inline videos and more from within their inbox. Yahoo has also added the ability to view and share notifications and updates from Twitter, Facebook and Zynga from within a new Updates tab.
Another new feature is message and contact prioritization. Similar to Google Gmail's Priority Inbox, Yahoo Mail will prioritize messages and contacts that matter most, meaning when users want o compose an IM, SMS or e-mail message the most frequent contacts and lists surface first.
Additionally, users can chat with Facebook friends alongside Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger contacts and view all past IM and text conversations from Yahoo Mail.
And much like the personalization options Google Gmail added last month, users can select themes and stationary options for their Yahoo Mail inbox.
Yahoo Mail also now lets users leverage applications from their inboxes, taking a page from Google Gmail Contextual Gadgets, which let Google Apps Marketplace applications present relevant information to users in their Gmail. For example, users can track online orders with an All My Purchases app, use an Unsubscriber app to stop receiving unwanted newsletters, and send large files using Attach Large Files by YouSendIt.
Yahoo also redefined its mail search options, helping users narrow e-mail search results by sender, attachment file, date or folder location using the refinement column tools on the left-hand side.
And on the security side, Yahoo Mail has added new protection, with advanced SpamGuard technology and a new anti-phishing platform. According to Yahoo, the new platforms have reduced spam reports by 60 percent and protect users from e-mail hackers and unwanted instant message conversations. Yahoo Mail, the company said, blocks more than 550 billion spam messages per month.