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January 10, 2008

Social Yahoo Mail: from Contacts to Connections

Yahoo's CEO, Jerry Yang, made an announcement at CES about a new version of Yahoo Mail that will be more social and will integrate third-party apps.

"Jerry walked through a vision demo showcasing the possibilities of a more open Yahoo!, in this case focused on one of our key starting points, Yahoo! Mail. He showed how a smarter inbox could prioritize the most relevant connections in his life, both from Yahoo! and multiple social networks, and make all of his communications (email, IM, SMS, voice, status text, photos, etc.) simpler to manage. He then walked through how Yahoo! as an open platform—using Yahoo! Mail, Flickr, Yahoo! Local and Maps, and third party applications like Evite and eBay—could let you tap into the collective tastes, interests, and knowledge of the people you know and of the rest of the world. His example was trying to corral a bunch of very different friends, family, and execs for an awesome dinner. He was able to discover and explore what millions of people find interesting in Las Vegas (via Flickr and our TagMaps prototype) and what his dinner guests might enjoy as well."

It's interesting that the prototype allowed you to create "connections" by adding people from your inbox, your Yahoo Messenger list, but also from social networks like LinkedIn. So Yahoo tries to make the inbox more powerful by unifying all your connections and merging all their details in a single place. Based on information extracted from all these contexts, Yahoo Mail shows a list of the most important updates from your connections.

The third-party apps become tools that help you find information related to conversations and have access to your connections. The maps application can find a restaurant based on the preferences of those you want to invite for dinner.

Yahoo Mail moves from being a mail application to a social application that integrates mail in a broader context. Yahoo intends to connect you more with your contacts and to transform them into connections, links in a social graph.

{ Image licensed as Creative Commons by sdk. }

More screenshots from the Yahoo Mail prototype
Email connections
Updates from your Gmail contacts


  1. Slowly I start liking a greasemonkeyed yahoo! better as gmail

  2. Bit silly really; the messages that are often the most important are the ones from people who've never emailed me before:

    A potential customer or employer;
    A customer I haven't spoken to in ages who has an urgent concern with some fault or problem...

    In these first contact cases it's important to prioritise this mail and deal with it faster than perhaps the ongoing conversations I'm having (which may be more casual, with my friends).

    I can see real problems with stuff like this being too smart- it's making basic (erroneous) assumptions about the importance of mail based on what is actually flawed logic.

    I think the increased integration is good though- but it only works if it integrates properly- getting facebook messages into my inbox is useless unless I can seamlessly reply too from my inbox.

  3. Alex, good analysis and I agree. I especially liked the integration. I one of those that pays for Yahoo Mail Plus (super, ultra, or whatever it is).

    I'm looking forward to using/testing some of these features.

  4. I would have slightly more confidence in this development if it weren't on top of a Yahoo Mail which still has sections that do not work - Calendar and Notepad are still circa 1998.

    If they cannot get their own web apps to work with mail, what realistic chance has third party integration got?

  5. It will definitely be interesting to see these things integrated. I still use Yahoo mail more than Gmail so I'm keen on seeing more functions!


    and you are writing 90% about other companies... funny...

  7. Jerry Yang thinks,everybody likes this "connections" c.r.a.p in new version of Yahoo Mail..


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