Yahoo is giving its Web-based mail service the biggest makeover since it launched in 1997, switching to a format that looks more like Microsoft Outlook and other desktop computer mail programs.
A trial version with many new features was rolled out for a limited group of users on Wednesday. All members are expected to get the updated service within a few months.
The new Yahoo Mail mimics offline mail programs by letting you drag and drop messages throughout the program -- into other folders, for example -- and offering a preview pane, which allows you to read a message in a window below the inbox listing without opening the message. Also new is a tab function that allows more than one message to be open at a time; clicking on tabs lets you move between open folders and messages.
"It's a really fast experience moving through your e-mail," said Ethan Diamond, product director for Yahoo Mail. "While you are composing one message, you can click on the 'inbox' tab and go into your inbox to read another message."
People who keep thousands of messages stashed online so they can access them from different computers will appreciate the speedy response, thanks to an advanced programming language. The software mostly came from Diamond's former e-mail company, Oddpost, which Yahoo bought in July 2004. The new Yahoo Mail requires no special downloads and works with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and the Firefox browser (for PCs and Macintoshes).
It also features more automation, checking for new messages every 10 minutes, for example. In a nod to Microsoft, Yahoo Mail allows users to right-click from within any message and choose from a menu of functions similar to Microsoft's Outlook program.
Yahoo is the most heavily used Web mail service in the United States, with more than 60 million users, according to ComScore Networks. It is accepting applications at whatsnew.mail.yahoo.com to try out its new program.
Bargains on Books
Buy.com declared a price war with Amazon.com last week, offering all books at 10 percent off Amazon's published prices through Dec. 31. Both merchants offer free shipping on most book orders over $25, so book hounds can indeed save money at Buy.com. But this is the second time the upstart retailer has tried underpricing Amazon -- the last was in 2002 -- and Buy.com didn't steal much business from the Seattle retailing giant then.
Amazon customers, meanwhile, got a new buying option last week when Coinstar Inc. announced that it will offer Amazon gift certificates from its coin-counting machines. People can earn Amazon credit -- which comes in the form of a code on a paper receipt -- by dropping change into any of Coinstar's 3,500 machines stationed in grocery stores nationwide.
Origins of Spam
Web sites are popping up right and left that plot all kinds of data on Google Maps, so why not spam? That's right, junk mail is the focus of the oversize "Spam Map" at a site called Mailinator.
Mailinator's main mission is to provide temporary e-mail addresses for people who want to receive mail without revealing their regular addresses. As a result, a lot of junk mail is sent to Mailinator's temporary addresses. So for the heck of it, the owners decided to plot the origin of incoming spam on a map provided by Google.
Click on any of the red push-pin icons dotting the map to read the subject line of incoming messages. It will show you how many were sent, when, and where they originated (the computer's IP address and domain name, along with city, state and country.)
Check out the map at www.mailinator.com/mailinator/map.html -- but watch out for the occasional offensive subject line. It is spam, after all.
E-mail Leslie Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.