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Yahoo tries to lure users with an e-mail face-lift

October 26, 2010 |  6:43 pm

Looking to get people to spend more time on its website, Yahoo has redesigned its free e-mail service, calling it the biggest overhaul in five years.

Yahoo says the new version that begins to roll out Wednesday will run twice as fast and include several new features.

One of those features is the ability to connect e-mail accounts to Twitter, making it possible to see new Twitter updates and to post to Twitter directly from e-mail. Yahoo already has that feature with Facebook. Yahoo e-mail users will also be able to play videos and look at pictures without having to leave their inbox.

Yahoo announced that it planned to make big changes to e-mail at an event at its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters last month.

Yahoo's estimated 273 million e-mail users can decide if they want to switch to the new version during a testing period that will last until the end of the year. All e-mail accounts will automatically switch over next year.

Yahoo is trying to hold onto its e-mail users because they tend to visit frequently, giving Yahoo more opportunities to show them ads. Millions of Web surfers are increasingly using popular services such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate. Yahoo also faces stiff competition from Google's Gmail, which now has an estimated 193 million users, according to ComScore.

Gmail and Microsoft's Hotmail have also introduced a number of upgrades to their e-mail services.

To get the new version, search on Yahoo.com for "Yahoo! Mail Beta" or visit http://features.mail.yahoo.com/and click "Try It Now."

-- Jessica Guynn

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