Yahoo! intitated a beta test with a limited number of users (sadly I'm not among that select group) and is preparing to launch a much-improved Web based email product. Beyond putting pressure on rivals (especially Hotmail), it will seek to cement loyalty among users (and prevent defections to Gmail). Mail is also one of the personalization features that can be integrated into Yahoo! Search (another loyalty tool).
Yahoo! serves display and other advertising in email and email drives lots and lots of usage and page views (comScore reports that in August Yahoo! had more page views than its competitors).
Here are U.S. email unique-user data according to July comScore metrics:
- Yahoo! Mail: 63.6 million
- AOL: 48.7 million
- MSN Hotmail: 44.4 million
- Comcast: 5.6 million (surprise there)
- Google Gmail: 5.4 million (Google Talk is partly attempting to drive Gmail growth)
I have email accounts at all of the above but MSN. But I actively use only two of those (one personally and one sometimes professionally in addition to my TKG address).
Email switching costs are high and so email is a primary tool to retain users as well as expose them to a broader array of products and services.