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RocketMail shipping to an in-box near you

June 18, 2008 |  9:01 pm

Rocketmail

It's a blast from the past, a bit of digital deja vu: Yahoo is bringing back RocketMail.

One of the first major free Webmail services, RocketMail was created by Four11, which Yahoo bought in 1997. But the Internet giant scrapped the name in favor of Yahoo Mail (Microsoft took the opposite approach with its early Webmail acquisition Hotmail).

More than a decade later, Yahoo, which had saved the RocketMail domain for its own use, is dusting off the little rocket (could the Pets.com sock puppet be far behind?) to give people the chance to get the e-mail address they really want.

Yahoo is, in fact, launching two domains tomorrow afternoon to make millions of new e-mail addresses available. The other is ymail.com. Apparently one-third of Web users who abandon the sign-up process for Yahoo mail do so because they can't get the address they want. That's because of Yahoo's popularity: It now boasts more than 260 million users, so most of the common names (and many uncommon ones) are taken.

Yahoo is clearly hoping the new domains will boost traffic and targeting opportunities for advertisers. Making sure that people sign up for Yahoo Mail is "foundational" for the company's goal of becoming the "starting point" for the most Internet users, said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo Mail.

How will RocketMail and Ymail play with Yahoo's key demographics?

Kremer says Yahoo has learned from watching competitors fumble. "Others have tried this," he said. "We have benefited from watching them do that.... We are not launching 10,000 new domains; we have a much simpler message."

As long as we are waxing nostalgic about the good ol' days, it's worth noting that Yahoo got more than mail from its purchase of Four11. It scored talent: Geoff Ralston, who became Yahoo's chief product officer and is now CEO of Lala Media, a music start-up in Palo Alto; and sought-after Internet entrepreneur Katie Burke Mitic, who served in several executive positions including global vice president and general manager of Yahoo personals.

It's going to be a long, long time before we see that kind of talent rocketing into Yahoo -- not out.

-- Jessica Guynn

RocketMail logo courtesy of Yahoo

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