By Eric Auchard
Yahoo Inc. the world's second-largest supplier of instant-messaging,
has begun offering a new version that works inside a Web browser
rather than requiring users to download a separate piece of software.
By dispensing with the need to install and run a separate IM program,
Yahoo is looking to reach out to tens of millions of consumers around
the world who use the Web in Internet cafes instead of on personal
computers at work or at home.
The move also appeals to travelers, business professionals on the go
and office workers whose companies block IM software downloads on
their internal networks for security reasons.
"Too many people have been restricted from benefiting from this type
of communication," Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's senior vice president in
charge of communications, said in an interview.
The introduction of Web-based IM paves the way for Yahoo to eventually
allow the rapid-fire text communication service in the member profile
pages of social networking services such as MySpace, Facebook or other
sites popular with young users.
"We certainly think about the opportunity where social networking and
real-time IM communications intersect," Garlinghouse said, giving no
timeline for when that may occur.
The Yahoo service is initially available in Brazil, India, Malaysia,
Philippines, the United States and Vietnam and will expand to
additional countries within the year, Yahoo said.
In India, 46 percent of consumer Web users log on from Internet cafes.
Yahoo is the biggest IM service in India, according to comScore data,
and it dominates in the Philippines and Vietnam, where upward of 80
percent of IM users use Yahoo.
Web-based IM is nothing new. Meebo.com grew popular among early
technology adopters with a Web-based service that allows users to
simultaneously sign on to AIM, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google IM
programs. Rival Google Talk has been embedded inside Google's e-mail
program, Gmail, for more than a year.
But Yahoo brings the advantages of Web-based IM to a far larger market
of tens of millions of active users.
"The Internet is evolving from a static experience where a Web page is
just a Web page to where Web pages behave more like traditional
desktop computer applications," Garlinghouse said.
One attraction of Yahoo's new Web-based IM service is an archive
feature that allows a user to search back to find all previous
conversations with any of their IM contacts. Another feature likely to
impress heavy users is the ability to manage 10 or more simultaneous
conversations in just one IM window.
Yahoo is No. 2 worldwide in IM with 88.5 million users, according to
audience measurement firm comScore Inc., AOL's AIM is No. 1 in the
United States, and Microsoft's MSN/Windows Live Messenger is most
Historically, a big disadvantage of IM was that both sender and
receiver had to use the same service. Since last July, Yahoo Messenger
users have been able to talk to MSN IM users.
IDC analyst Rebecca Swensen said Yahoo, along with AIM, MSN, Google
and eBay Inc.'s Skype, is blurring the distinctions that existed in
the first decade of the Web between e-mail, instant-messaging and
"All these guys are laying the foundation for an online communications
platform for users," she said, noting that Web services are fast
becoming available not just on computers but also mobile phones,
televisions and game consoles.
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Just what we need, for sure! Now,
instead of needing to specifically open a chat window to get constant
interuptions by perverts and others asking (actually demanding) A S L?
or quite often, 'm or f how old?' now we will be able to hear from
these fools merely by having a browser window open doing other stuff. PAT]