Test Drive: Yahoo Messenger

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted July 01, 2002
By Bob Woods

Yahoo Messenger is on the move, in terms of new subscribers.

A survey released last fall by Jupiter Media Metrix found that in terms of at-home use, the number of people using the popular portal's instant-messaging (IM) client climbed 25% to almost 12 million users. In the at-work category, Yahoo Messenger usage jumped 83% to 3.4 million users.

If those numbers impress you to the point where you're thinking about using Yahoo Messenger for keeping in contact with customers and clients, you're obviously not alone. The one which you should use depends on what net your clients use. If you find they're on multiple networks, use a cross-IM platform like Trillian (discussed later).

If you end up using Yahoo Messenger, though, you'll have a robust client that works well. Yahoo Messenger offers excellent integration with the Web, and specifically with the My Yahoo Web site. A tradeoff, though, is that you first have to enter a great deal of information on the My Yahoo site before getting the news and stock information you want through the Messenger client.

While there are no AOL Instant Messenger ticker-style windows available with Yahoo Messenger, the client's tabbed interface makes it simple to switch between the five default Messenger windows: a listing of friends and family for exchanging instant messages with, a stock quotes screen, a window for news headlines, another for sports scores, and finally a display for any personal alerts you might have. In addition to these five windows, three additional windows can be opened for weather forecasts, travel ticket prices, and Web site bookmarks.

Besides having the ability to IM another Yahoo Messenger member, the client also makes it possible to set up text-based group conferences or carry on voice chats with one or more users. Other features important to enterprise users include an invisible mode that lets you remain online without being visible to other Yahoo Messenger users, custom status messages to let users know what you're doing and e-mail sending capabilities. Also, a minimized message option will send all of your incoming instant messages to the minimized taskbar icon, where you can view them whenever you want. Another useful addition is a notification option that displays small text messages above the taskbar icon when one of your friends gets online or goes offline and a second one that displays messages when you receive e-mail messages.

If your customers or business associates use multiple public IM networks, though, you can try a cross-platform IM product - one that interfaces with all of the public IM networks of AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ - like the free one from Trillian.

A handful of client/server based enterprise-strength IM systems, including Bantu, Odigo, Jabber and Imici, offer cross-platform compatibility. Those aren't free, of course - although Odigo does have a free version of its IM client. Imici also has a free version of its client.

Yahoo Messenger, though, gives Internet marketers a different channel through which to reach consumers. The company's IMVironments allow users to choose what appears in the instant messenger window behind the text. When one user chooses a background, it is also seen by the person with whom the user is communicating.

These themes offer all kinds of opportunities for marketers. When people choose a theme, they are essentially helping companies market themselves by showing their affinity for a particular product. Theoretically, that marketing would be more effective because it is transmitted virally from friend to friend. Reprinted from InstantMessagingPlanet.

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