Yahoo Inc. said it is upgrading Yahoo Mail, the most popular Web e-mail program, to make it run more efficiently than other Web-based systems and nearly as fast as desktop e-mail.
The new version of Yahoo Mail works in a browser, just as existing versions of the program do, but Yahoo has developed ways to short-circuit the multi-second delays that typically delay any action taken in Web-based e-mail programs.
It replaces the need to repeatedly refresh a browser to open e-mail, move it into folders or take other actions that require the user to wait for the browser to redraw the page.
Instead, it works similarly to desktop computer e-mail clients, with features such as drag-and-drop organization of e-mails into folders and a message preview window that displays selected messages nearly instantaneously.
"The process of going through the inbox is much, much faster," said Ethan Diamond, product manager for Yahoo Mail and a co-founder of Outpost, the company which supplied the underlying technology used in the Yahoo Mail upgrade.
Yahoo acquired Outpost in July 2004.
Analysts said Yahoo appears to have a sizable head start over other major consumer e-mail providers such as Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail, Time Warner Inc.'s America Online and Google Inc.'s Gmail in speeding up the experience of managing Web-based e-mail.
"This is a fairly significant step ahead for Yahoo," said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research.
Yahoo Mail contains keystroke shortcuts that reduce use of a mouse pointer, faster searching through e-mail and an auto-complete feature for addressing e-mails to frequent correspondents. Yahoo Mail remains free and ad-supported.
Users of Microsoft Outlook, the desktop e-mail program that is the most popular way for office-workers to manage their e-mail, will recognize many similarities between Yahoo Mail and the Web-based version of Outlook.
Golvin said Yahoo is looking to keep existing customers happy more than winning new Yahoo Mail users. "This is more about cementing greater loyalty of customers that might have been casting their eye at (rival) Gmail," he said.
It will be offered initially to heavy e-mail users in the United States and then be progressively offered to all Yahoo e-mail users over the next several months, a spokeswoman said.
The upgrade will become available to Yahoo users in Europe, Asia, and around the world in coming months. During a test period, users will be able to switch between the new version and the existing version of Yahoo Mail to compare features.
The new version of Yahoo Mail is available on the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser for Windows and on Firefox for both Apple and Windows-based computers.
Further details can be found atCopyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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