Yahoo will also use keywords derived from scanning email messages for targeting interest-based ads across its ad network, as well as within the updated Yahoo Mail. The search giant expects the upgrade to better target ads based on keywords gleaned from scanning email content. "This might result in ads being shown to you in Mail for products and services that are related to those keywords. In addition, these keywords may contribute to the interest categories we assign to your browser for interest-based ads that we show throughout the Yahoo! Ad Network," states a FAQ about the Yahoo Mail Beta on the company's privacy site.
For users, the main changes include the ability to view and share updates from Facebook, Twitter and Zynga without having to leave the inbox. They can also instantly reply to messages from Facebook and chat with Facebook friends within Yahoo Mail.
During the first-quarter conference call, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz said that among the 7 million to 8 million users participating in the public beta, engagement with Yahoo Mail was up 30%. Whether that usage gain can be maintained or increased with the full rollout of the new version of the email service remains to be seen.
While Yahoo, Google and AOL already serve "relevant" ads in the mail client, an Adotas article yesterday noted that Yahoo would be going a step further by extending the use of email data to targeting across its network. In the FAQ, Yahoo also explains that it's maintaining the same privacy practices as for the existing Yahoo Mail, and provides a link where people can set interest preferences or opt out of interest-based advertising entirely.
In addition, an automatic slideshow feature allows people to view photos and videos from sites like Flickr and YouTube within messages and inboxes that can be customized with a variety of backgrounds and graphic options. When it comes to search, a new left-hand column allows users to sort search results by sender, attachment file, date or folder location.
The revamped Yahoo Mail offers a set of applications that enable users to track online orders, be removed from unwanted newsletters and send large files. Yahoo says its new spam and anti-phishing technology have helped cut spam reports by 60%, blocking some 550 billion unwanted messages a month in the process.
"Yahoo's vision for online communications brings together all the tools that people use to connect -- email, chat, SMS, and social updates -- and makes it easier for them to share content and engage in conversations with the people that matter most to them," said Blake Irving, Yahoo's chief product officer, in a statement.
The overhaul is intended to help Yahoo fend off challenges from Google's Gmail and Facebook's own messaging system. During the first quarter, time spent and page views on the company's communication and communities properties -- which include Yahoo Mail -- dropped 6% and 10%, respectively.
In addition to end users, Yahoo said the enhanced email service would also be available to its mobile and telecom partners, including Nokia, Verizon, Rogers Communications and other device makers and broadband providers. Yahoo struck a deal with Nokia last year to power its email and chat services.