Yahoo to Merge IM with Webmail Client

Yahoo said Thursday that it plans to integrate a Web-based version of its instant messaging program into the next beta of its Yahoo Mail Web application. The new client, which uses AJAX technology, is expected to debut early next year.

Google has already integrated Google Talk into Gmail, however they use separate interfaces. Yahoo's implementation would combine the two into a single interface, executives say. The move is aimed at improving the user experience.

When responding to e-mail, in addition to allowing users to reply they could opt to instant message the contact instead if he or she is online through Yahoo Messenger. If the IM option is selected, a window for the instant messaging conversation appears within the e-mail client to continue the conversation there.

While at the current time only conversations with Yahoo Messenger users are supported, the company plans to eventually bring interoperability features with Windows Live Messenger users to the client as well.

Starting chats with users would be as simple as one click, with the option to continue through an e-mail message if a participant so desires. Eventually the company plans to also allow archiving of chat sessions, executives say.

With Yahoo's latest move, only Microsoft and AOL now do not integrate instant messaging with their e-mail clients. While both Hotmail and Windows Live Mail both show online/offline status, instant messaging conversations are connected through the company's stand-alone application.

"Users will quickly get used to flipping quickly between email and IM depending on "presence" - whether or not the person they are communicating with is online," Michael Arrington wrote of the service in the TechCrunch web log Thursday. "We continue to prefer Yahoo Mail over Gmail because Yahoo Mail allows POP access to third party email services, whereas Gmail only allows access to Google's own email service."

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