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Yahoo! Bridges email, IM Divide

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According to reports, Yahoo! has blended its free email and Instant Messaging (IM) services, thus making it simpler for users to chat online from any computer connected to the Internet.

The company said that starting yesterday and continuing over the coming months, Yahoo! will activate this feature for users of the new version of Yahoo! Mail, which is in beta phase but available to all users of the service.

In a statement, John Kremer, Vice President, Yahoo! Mail, said that they are bringing the fun of instant messaging into the e-mail experience. It is about bringing to the masses choices on how they communicate. They are hopefully bridging the gap between email users and IM users, as there is still a chunk of Yahoo! Mail users who are not using IM.

According to Yahoo!, the new feature alerts Yahoo! Mail beta users if their contacts are logged on to Yahoo! Messenger and gives them the option of starting a text chat session from within the mail interface. And if the user is composing an email message but wants to chat instead, Yahoo! Mail can take the text and paste it into the text chat window. Similarly, the chat session can be automatically imported to an email message form.

Kramer added that they are giving users more ways to connect to communities, friends, and peers, and will continue to add more social networking features into Yahoo! Mail. And by referring to features like Web phone-calling that are already part of many IM services, Kramer explained that by allowing users to jump between two modes of communication, they are laying the groundwork for other types of communications.

It is learnt that Yahoo! is in effect moving the mountain of its 250 million Yahoo! Mail users by eliminating the elusive technical distinctions that have separated the two modes of communication and limited the appeal of IM among many users.

Meanwhile, the beta version of Yahoo! mail, which is a free service, offers a number of improvements over the current version, including a more agile interface based on AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) that works like a desktop application. It also allows users drag and drop messages into folders, provides a pane to preview message content, and offers the ability to have multiple message windows open.

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