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In a move to reaffirm its commitment to innovation under recently appointed CEO Carol Bartz, Yahoo on Monday introduced enhancements to its search, e-mail and instant messaging software.
Ari Balogh, Yahoo EVP of products and CTO, described the changes as a reflection of the company's focus on helping people connect. "This renewed focus on providing a more personally relevant online experience began with our recent Yahoo homepage launch and continues to come to life across products like Mail, Messenger and Search -- with much more to come," he said in a statement.
Yahoo Mail, the most popular commercial e-mail service in the world, has become more adept at surfacing content from friends. It now separates e-mail from people in one's contacts list from other messages, to clarify when friends have something to say. And by entering personal profile information, Yahoo Mail users can share updates they make and can receive updates that friends make at a variety of Web sites.
Yahoo Mail can also be used with a growing number of third-party services like Evite, Flickr, and PayPal. Sending an Evite, for example, can now be done without leaving Yahoo Mail. It also features drag-and-drop photo sharing, an improved design, increased attachment size limits, and a better user experience on mobile phones.
Innovation of this sort will be critical if Yahoo Mail is to remain ahead of Google's Gmail, which recently became the third most popular e-mail service and appears to be on track to take the number two spot from Microsoft's Hotmail in the first quarter of next year.
Yahoo Messenger 10, Yahoo's instant messaging application, also adds an update tracking feature, as well as the ability to conduct video calls. It comes with a language selector that allows users to run the application in one of 16 languages.
Yahoo introduced several new search features that should serve to differentiate a Yahoo Search from a Microsoft Bing search. This is likely to become more important once Microsoft begins providing Yahoo's search infrastructure, per the recently announced deal between the two companies.
Yahoo says that its new search experience is better integrated with Yahoo's recently renovated homepage design. The change, Yahoo claims, makes search more personally relevant.
"One of the designs we have been testing aligns the page framework and design with the new Yahoo Homepage," said Larry Cornett, VP of Yahoo's consumer products, in a blog post. "Not only does this create a more integrated Yahoo product experience, it also provides quick access to valuable search-specific applications and features in the left-hand column. For example, the section titled 'Show Results From' helps people explore the results that matter most to them through sites they know and love."
Other additions include greater weighting of search history for determining search result relevance, improved access to search preference settings, and expanded availability for Search Assist, Yahoo's real-time search suggestion technology.