Yahoo Mail, the top provider of Web-based e-mail, is letting users sign up with the ymail.com and rocketmail.com domains in an attempt to attract new users and keep existing ones loyal.
The move is geared to help people find a better e-mail address, said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail. "We want users to get the exact e-mail account they want so they stay with us for life," he said.
Because "firstname.lastname@example.org" is likely taken by now, a lot of people must resort to unpleasant and hard-to-remember addresses such as "email@example.com." Yahoo wants to give people a new chance with a name they like.
The rocketmail name dates back to Yahoo's $92 million acquisition in 1997 of Four11, a company that offered the free RocketMail service.
"It's a great brand," Kremer said. "Those who have no memory of our service in the late 1990s indicated they like it, and those who indicated they want to be retro like it for the fact that it's associated with Yahoo.com since the beginning."
Maybe it's retro for Yahoo, too, which is under fire from shareholders after a bruising takeover attempt by Microsoft. Probably plenty of employees enjoy thinking nostalgically about the company's dot-com glory days. But the company is trying to move forward, too, with Mail one major part of the company's Yahoo Open Strategy (YOS) strategy.
Through YOS, Yahoo is trying to make its online services a foundation for third-party applications. For mail, that means letting other applications appear on the Mail "canvas," Kremer said.
In this area, Kremer said, Yahoo was inspired by technology the Yahoo got through its acquisition of online e-mail specialist Zimbra in 2007.
"Zimbra was a pioneer in opening up Web services within the Zimbra application. They have open applications within their space that are used all over the place," he said.
There are now "no walls" between Yahoo Mail and Zimbra engineers, he added, though the business units are separate. "They share a lot of what they do. You'll see in very short order products on our site built on their technology, and vice versa," Kremer said.
The Internet company revamped its Yahoo Mail interface beginning three years ago, calling the update the "all-new Yahoo Mail" for well over a year now. The new interface is based on technology from Yahoo's 2004 acquisition of Oddpost.com.
The "all-new" badge will be removed "pretty soon," Kremer added.
Yahoo plans a "rolling thunder of announcements" around Yahoo Mail in the next six to eight months, he added. Some significant changes will include as a "smarter inbox," work to make Yahoo Mail fit better in today's world of social networking, and the opening of the mail platform, he added.
It's a good thing, because there are plenty of competitors--not just traditional Web mail outfits such as Microsoft Hotmail, AOL, and up-and-coming Google Gmail, but also social sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Yahoo considers the full spectrum of competition, though.
"What we believe here at Yahoo is all communication is eventually coming together," Kremer said. "You don't need to bounce out to a separate social communications site or a different social event site when most of those tools are really just communications. If it's built on the same address book and calendar information, you can see them coming together in a single, more productive, smarter inbox."