Yahoo Oct. 26 leveraged its partnerships with Facebook and Twitter to makes its latest Yahoo Mail Beta instantiation a much more social application.
Yahoo has been maligned for the last few years for failing to grow against the tide of Internet powers such as Google, Facebook and Twitter.
Despite the steep challenge of boosting user engagement, the Internet company enjoys a loyal following of 273 million Yahoo Mail users, 95 million of which reside in the U.S.
However, Yahoo believes it can increase the user engagement on Yahoo Mail by making it twice as fast as the previous version, paring spam and integrating some of the popular Web services it is battling for eyeballs.
During a demonstration, Dave McDowell, Yahoo Mail senior director for product management, showed how users can post status updates to Facebook and blast out tweets to Twitter right within the Yahoo Mail app.
This is one of the key instances of Yahoo's integration agreement with Twitter, whose tweets Yahoo already indexes with its search engine. Yahoo inked its deal with Facebook in June to integrate the social network's content across 15 properties.
Users may also view photos from Flickr and Google Picasa and YouTube videos, all inline within the Yahoo Mail e-mail messages. Yahoo Mail recognizes when a user receives a link from Flickr or Picasa and displays it as a slideshow.
In another key integration, Yahoo is now allowing users to access Yahoo Messenger for chat with multiple users and send text messages right from Messenger in Mail. Expect video chat from Yahoo Messenger in the future, but McDowell wouldn't say when.
Yahoo's bid to integrate these social apps directly within Yahoo Mail runs counter to Google's approach of socializing Gmail. Google Buzz sits atop Gmail, leveraging its contacts, but users must use Buzz to post to Twitter, Picasa, YouTube and other Web services. Yahoo's integration of core social apps proves more efficient.
Yahoo Mail's search has also been fortified to help people navigate, sort and narrow search results by sender, attachment file, date or folder.
"This is a product that is at the center of peoples' online lives," McDowell said, adding that improvements to the mail app's speed and spam challenges should boost the user experience significantly for Yahoo's millions of users.
Whether this vision becomes reality is remains to be seen. Yahoo has watched its fortunes fade as it seeks to find the right formula to keep users interested in its products.
This has led to some disillusionment by investors who have become skeptical about Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz's ability to turn the company around.
Users must opt-in to try the Yahoo Mail beta-which apes the Mail versions from Yahoo's iPad, iPhone and Android applications-by navigating here and clicking the "Try It Now" link.
Users have the option to switch between Yahoo Mail Beta, available in 25 markets worldwide, and the current iteration of Yahoo Mail.