I’ve always struggled to understand why text messaging via your mobile phone is so relatively unpopular in the US when compared to the UK, yet instant messaging is huge. Then add into the mix why certain age bands divide those computer users who live for instant messaging and those that neither love or hate it .. they just don’t know about it.
Step in Yahoo! who have taken a leaf – of sorts, maybe – from Apple’s book by integrating instant messaging directly into the email client:
“Heavy Internet users, especially younger, Web-savvy users of social networking sites or office workers, have long toggled between e-mail and instant messaging services.
But for more occasional users of consumer e-mail services, the allure of instant messaging has remained far from obvious.
Consumers can now run the two programs in one Web browser. There is no need to download Yahoo Messenger software, a complication for users who are not technically inclined.”
To the impartial viewer of the last couple of weeks, you’re probably putting together a case against me with a claim that I’m a Yahoo! fanboy .. not so! I’m usually an Apple fanboy, I’ll have you know!
The reason that I’ve been droning on about Yahoo! so often recently is that they’re just out innovating everyone in their space.
The clever thing is, when you look what they’re doing, there’s diminishing levels of overlap with more and more integration between their offerings, typically by way of their Mashup mentality of late.
While the instant messaging within email owes nothing to Mashups, it does show that the rest of their staffers are still thinking laterally, too.
“Each instant messaging dialogue will take place in a new conversation window within Yahoo Mail, allowing people to chat with multiple friends simultaneously, without leaving e-mail.”
That’s where the Yahoo! offering differs from that of Apple. Within the email client Mail on Mac OS X, you’re given a button that indicates if a contact within iChat is on-line. If they are, then you click a button to chat with them, but that launches iChat and at that point, you leave Mail.
By the looks of things, Yahoo! and Apple aren’t the only ones thinking this way:
“Yahoo is not the first to blend the immediacy of instant message with the greater depth allowed by e-mail communications: Google Inc. incorporates its Google Talk messaging system inside its [GMail] program, while Microsoft’s e-mail service alerts a user when e-mail recipients are also on instant messaging.”
So could we argue Yahoo! are entering the race a little late? Maybe. But then again, it’s better late than never.
And when you consider their not inconsiderable number of signed members, there’s being late and then being fashionably late:
“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 instant-messaging among many users.”
To have more signed, registered members than the population of major nations is something of a commentary on the world we now live in – one that is deeply interconnected, instant and future-proof…