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Yahoo Wants to Make Web Mail a Competitive Weapon

One of Yahoo's most valuable properties is its web mail service, which has more members and gets more traffic than mail services provided by Google, MSN and AOL. Yahoo Mail was once part of the portal, another offering along side things like photo services, stock portfolios, alerts and other services under Yahoo's "portal" umbrella. Now, according to an entry on GigaOm, Yahoo is gearing up to use the popular mail service as the platform that would host other tools and features. And many of those could be created by third-party developers, which is part of Yahoo's bigger push into open-source.

Regardless of what happens to Yahoo's CEO, stock price or even a deal with Microsoft, there's no denying that the mail feature is one of the company's biggest assets. So it makes sense that Yahoo would look for a way to open mail as a means of keeping people on that site longer and getting them to engage with other services or features. Think of it being more like what Facebook is becoming (but not quite there yet.) Within the Facebook platform, there's e-mail and IM. But there's also photos and videos and notes. And then, of course, all the funky, silly stuff (good karma, virtual snowballs, cans of whoop-ass) that gets shared among friends in your Facebook network.

The details of what Yahoo is planning to roll out are few. But the GigaOM post notes that a beta launch of the program is expected soon and that it will likely include a half-dozen small apps built into a sidebar running inside the mail client. (Evite is believed to be one of the first.) In addition, user address books would open to the doors to the social graph that could turn Yahoo into a social networking experience where the "friend list" has been in the works for years, instead of starting from scratch.

On another note, it's encouraging to see the company move forward with innovative plans, despite what's happening around it. The buzz in the blogosphere this morning is that the previously-announced layoffs could be implemented as early as this week. It's believed that 1,500 jobs could be eliminated but some reports say that number could be higher.

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Sam Diaz is a senior editor at ZDNet. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations. This post first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog.