Yahoo Opens Mail, Toolbar To Social Networks

Based on the company's development software -- Y!OS -- the revamp represents an attempt to reinvent itself as a social network.
The big news for developers is that Yahoo has started limited beta testing of third-party apps in Yahoo Mail.

One such app, Xoopit, scours one's Yahoo Mail account and organizes all the images and links to photo-sharing sites that it finds and makes those pictures easy to redistribute. Another is Yahoo's own Flickr, which has been integrated with Yahoo Mail to make image sharing easier. And Yahoo Mail users with WordPress blogs can now drag an e-mail message onto the WordPress icon in Yahoo Mail and turn that message into a blog post that can be published with one additional click.

On one level, the new Yahoo Mail is unimpressive and merely serves to underscore how far behind browser-based e-mail clients are from desktop e-mail clients, which have had ways to filter messages based on a variety of criteria for years.

On another level, the new Yahoo Mail represents the birth of a social network with 500 million users. That's clearly the level Yahoo wants to be on, but it remains unclear how many Yahoo users want to be there.

One way to measure that is by the number of Yahoo users who have embraced the new profiles the company launched in October.

Yahoo declined to provide that number. Had every single user done so, Yahoo surely would have said something. So it's something less than everyone, which is hardly surprising given that the company only retrofitted its profile system to accommodate social interaction two months ago. The question is whether enough Yahoo users want a social experience to make developers want their online applications on Yahoo.

In reference to Yahoo's corporate pulse, the company held a press event in San Francisco at Outcast Communications, its public relations firm, rather than at Yahoo's Brickhouse, where previous Yahoo platform events had been held. Last week, TechCrunch reported that Yahoo's Brickhouse, its 2-year-old idea incubator, would close by the end of the year. A Yahoo spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on rumors.

Valleywag predicted as much back in February. True or not, word of Brickhouse's demise arrived last week alongside Yahoo's layoffs, serving to underscore the company’s need for new leadership and a new beginning.