Should You Yahoo?

Downloads: 731,939
Publisher: Yahoo
Date added: October 24, 2001
File size: 2.5MB; Clock this download
License: Free
Minimum requirements: Windows 95/98/NT/2000/Me, Internet Explorer 4.01. There are different versions for the Palm OSŪ, Pocket PC, Power Mac PPC, Mac 68K, Windows 3.1x/3.5x/CE/95 and Java
Uninstaller included?: Yes

Yahoo IM

The race for advertiser eyeballs on the internet continues to rage on, and the newest battlefields remains to be the Instant Messenger platform.

From the executives in the boardrooms down to the developer’s cubicles where the real battle is fought, there’s no question that advertiser attention is primary on the minds of everyone in the Sunnyvale, California internet giant. And for good reason – advertiser funds have become scarce in 2001 recession riddled and web-stock wary USA.

Still, Yahoo must be among the best places one can put an ad on the internet in, and with Yahoo IM version 5 Yahoo adds yet another strong reason to maintain its status as internet advertising leader. Let’s take a look a closer look at it in this, the 2nd entry into a thorough review of IMs.

Features
IMvironments (Windows-only)
IMvironments is Yahoo’s rather cutesy name for a thoroughly cutesy feature. What it basically allows you to do is to download an environment for you and your chatmate to converse in. In a
Christmasy streak? Want to chat as if you’re on the bottom of the ocean? You can change the background of your chat window to reflect your current mood.

There are quite a number of choices, including Hello Kitty, Dilbert, Monsters Inc. and even Enrique Iglesias, as well as your standard Snoopy, Garfield and some original designs. My fave is one featuring Garbage’s Shirley Manson.

More importantly, IMvironments allows yet another advertising avenue for Yahoo. An interactive, eyeball-grabbing and “sticky” (term for an internet application that people look at or use for a prolonged period of time) one at that. IMvironments are animated, multimedia and is interactive. Check out Ch@tables, which features quotes from Will Smith movies and Yahoo Fighter, where you can battle it out with your chatmate using Paper – Rock – Scissors and is loads of fun.

However what it gains in entertainment value it loses in personalization somewhat, as although it makes your IM look cuter than the rest there is no feature that allows you to make your own IMvironment. Making one is surely difficult, and it may also possibly save you from intellectual property issues if say, you make a Michael Jordan IMvironment without his Airness’ consent. But wouldn’t it be even cuter to chat in your own self-made IMvironment, say, your house or office?

Inspite of this, IMvironments is my favorite add-on to Yahoo IM and certainly ups the IM “cute” scale by several notches. It’s certainly better than chatting with a plain old white background.

Add Messenger to your webpage.
ICQ allows you to add html code on your website which will tell visitors to it whether you are online or not. You can do so using Yahoo’s Geocities’s tools or just add their HTML code onto your site. This is neat stuff for personal sites, but only if you’re willing to have your friends start bugging you when you get online.

Create Your Own Personalized Themes
Personalized Themes is Yahoo’s longish term for what is essentially popularly known as “Skins”, another cool way to change the way Yahoo IM looks. Granted, ICQ also has this, and Yahoo is just going with the flow here. Yahoo has links to sites where you can download Skins, although some of them weren’t updated and were dead links. Many of the sites also featured ICQ and Winamp versions of the same skin as well.

Yahooligans for Kids (Windows-only)
There’s a toned down version of Yahoo IM for kids called Yahooligans, with almost the same features and capabilities. The only major difference is that Yahooligans only allows receiving messages from people who are already on their “Friends” list. This means that kids and their parents don’t have to worry that a stranger might try to contact them while online. Parents can also check who’s on their “Friends” list through Family Accounts – a Yahoo feature that allows a parent to control the information their child shares with Yahoo and maintain and monitor their account on an ongoing basis. A parent would need a regular account and sign up their child account under it.

Primarily this is Yahoo’s way to offer a safe IM for kids, but it’s also a neat way to use a version of Yahoo IM which features even more cute stuff, like large animal icons instead of the standard ones. Unfortunately, you cannot use Yahooligans on the same PC with Yahoo IM, and there is no non-Windows version.

Messenger Content Tabs
2nd most favorite feature of the Yahoo IM for me is the Messenger Content Tabs, which offer Auctions, Bookmarks, Calendar, Friends, News, Sports, Stocks, Travel and Weather information. In other words, the same personalized information available on the my.yahoo.com page, made even more concise when displayed in the small IM window.

After removing the ones I don’t need and retaining News, Sports and of course Friends, I have a very interesting IM which not only keeps me connected to my friends and business associates but also gives me NBA box scores and World headlines, removing information I don’t need when I specified NBA and world news only in my.yahoo.com.

Unfortunately I encounter a bug on their website when I try to log-in to change my.yahoo details even further, as it failed to recognize who I am and kept asking me for my username and password. I know it still retains my content preferences, as I continue to receive the types of news I asked for to my IM, but I couldn’t seem to log in. This strange flaw where Yahoo seems to forget who you are happens at other times as well, which I describe more in detail when we start talking about the cons of using this IM.

Yahoo Search
Let’s not forget Yahoo started out as a search engine, inspite of the now many things that you can do there. And Yahoo IM maintains a small window where you can search News Stories, Ticker Symbols, Weather, Auctions, Shopping, Kid’s Sites, Kid’s Sites, Yahoo Clubs, Message Boards, Net Events, TV Listings, Travel and Address Book. It also allows you to search for other Yahoo members via the Yahoo Member Directory, where you can find someone by Yahoo ID, name, or a combination of last name, gender and others.

This is Yahoo flexing it’s muscles, as again content is where Yahoo shines, and Yahoo IM simply makes said content more available to you via the IM. Unlike ICQ which is an IM that added content, Yahoo went the other way around as a content powerhouse adding an IM to supplement it. There is little doubt that you can find here or at least have a better chance at finding whatever it is you’re looking for. And if you often do searches then this may be the IM for you if only because of that.

Chat
Yahoo has a very powerful and more important, very popular chat engine. It is so popular among Pinoys that there are 2 Tagalog rooms, out of only 13 different rooms categorized by language in Yahoo. Of course, Pinoys are to be found in the Asian-American and Asian rooms as well. In fact start chatting in any busy room in Tagalog and someone is liable to understand and respond.

Chatting using Yahoo IM’s built in Java client is an excellent alternative to mIRC mainly because of it’s audio and video capabilities. Yahoo IM seamlessly works with a PC’s audio setup, and with a mike and speakers a chatroom can really get rowdy. Listening to a special guitar appreciation chatroom is a case in point. When I tried it a guy hooked up his PC to his guitar and played blues music LIVE for hours. Sure it was mono and sometimes the sound gets choppy as your connection gets blurred, but overall the experience was quite excellent.

Small chat icons on the right side also indicate if a person has a webcam, which again adds further appeal. Webcam to webcam meetings are held almost constantly at Yahoo, and is another strong come-on for Yahoo IM.

Unfortunately, and this can be a major bummer, you can’t make yourself invisible to some friends while telling others that you’re online and available. Sometimes for various reasons you wouldn’t really want certain people to “see” you when you get online. It may be because you owe them money, or maybe you just don’t want to get bothered at that moment. This feature, or lack of it, needs to be considered before using this IM.

Other versions
Yahoo is available for Windows, Java, Palm, Macintosh and Windows CE. Where it differs with MSN Messenger is that it also supports Unix/FreeBSD, which Microsoft is unlikely if ever to make versions for. Yahoo IM is also available in 22 different languages to MSN’s 26.

Pros and Cons
Pros
Let’s start with the good stuff. Yahoo IM utilizes all of Yahoo in full glory. Content available via Yahoo’s News, Clubs, Sports and Member directory make Yahoo IM a no-brainer for the user who wants to get connected to quick relevant information.

It’s also a very fast, seamless application which quickly and silently runs and works in the background from the get-go, and not get in the way of everyday work. An ability to detect an internet connection turns it on automatically – giving you the impression that it’s always there when you need it, without making a big fuss about it. ICQ and AOL IM on the other hand make it a point to announce their presence in one way or another, and sometimes being conscious of this may make you want to remove it or not use it later on.

Finally, in the tradition of the so easy to navigate, quick loading, almost spartan Yahoo website, Yahoo IM is uncluttered and sports a very clean look, inspite of the fact that it can do what most IMs can do as well. Even when setting up something, like adding a friend or making it work with a sound card, the details are in large easy to read type and have clear instructions.

The Cons? Well there are many.
When adding a bunch of users to my Friends list, I added them via their Yahoo profile, which promised to send a message to query them if they wanted to become members first or not. Instead they were quickly put on my list without giving them due warning, and when I sent them a message for the first time expressed surprise at being on my list. It was kind of embarassing.

A chatting glitch also happened several times when in the midst of an enjoyable chat session I stopped receiving the conversations of whoever I was speaking to. I could hear the audible sound of a message being received by my IM but no message. A restart and even reboot of the program failed to alleviate the situation.

A particularly weird experience involves the website as well. A Yahoo ID is supposed to be a neat way for an individual to maintain his identity throughout Yahoo’s maze of services, but unfortunately my ID seems to work in some but not in others. Apart from Yahoo IM I am also an avid YahooGroups user – Yahoo’s popular mailing lists where you can discuss hundreds of different topics – and I easily log in and out of this service everyday. However for some strange reason the free email address I am entitled to with my Yahoo ID is unavailable, and has been so ever since. When I try to access it I receive an apologetic message on an error page, promising that this issue will be reported and worked on immediately. This situation has been the same for 2 years now and it’s fortunate that I don’t need that Yahoo email addy anyway. However because of this I never managed to check Yahoo IN’s integration with YahooMail.

I have yet to ask help from Yahoo, but from the looks of it Yahoo doesn’t really want you to. This is obvious as I had such a difficult time looking for an email address to send these complaints to. This was also the case with users who did try and claimed futility at this exercise. Another sign is that Yahoo maintains a “Yahoo Expert” service, where volunteers who feel they’re good with the ins and outs of Yahoo’s services can sign up to help other Yahoo users. A Yahoo Expert gets to install an icon declaring same on his website, which gets to be featured on Yahoo’s help page and which he can proudly show off. I’m not surprised if Yahoo receives thousands of complaints and / or inquiries everyday. So much so that they have decided to form a volunteer force.

Conclusion

But then again what application that tries to do as much as an IM doesn’t have a glitch or two? Inspite of IMs being touted as the internet killer app and with so much riding on it, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, AOL, Trillian and Odigo have all had their share of glitches, security holes and errors, so much so that counting these may not necessarily be the way to choose one anymore.

If you were to choose an IM by features though, Yahoo IM makes a good argument as the IM of choice. None of it’s errors, though many, are life-threatening. There are also many reasons that make it a no brainer to particular kinds of users, such as Yahooligans with it’s “Family” accounts, the cute IMvironments, the availability of a Linux version and finally access to Yahoo’s tons of quality content.

Gabriel H. Mercado

Interview with a Yahoo IM user:

From: “Belandres, Konkon”
To: “‘Gabriel Mercado'”

1. Full Name
Konkon Belandres
2. Occupation
Admin Assistant
3. Age
30 years old
4. Location
Silang, Cavite
5. How often are you online?
9 hours or more per day
6. How often are you online while using Yahoo IM?
9 hours or more per day
7. Are you behind a firewall?
a. Yes at work (Mon-Fri).
b. No at home (Sat, Sun and Holidays)
8. If you are, does Yahoo IM work well even if there’s a firewall or are
there any noticeable differences?
It works general well behind firewall except for some
setbacks:
a) voice and video doesn’t work.
b) some program glitches affects firewall users than
those
who uses private ISPs. i experienced two problems for the last few
months
(i. account lock-out ii. invalid password) and i noticed that they
usually
happen when i log in behind the firewall.
c) it is a bit slower when logging in behind firewall
and
at times, i experience delivery/receiving failure of some of posted
msgs.
9. Have you ever clicked the advertisements?
Sometimes
10. Have you ever emailed for support? If yes, what was your experience?
Yes, few times when i experienced trouble logging in behind
firewall. They dont reply back!
11. Do you use it primarily for business or leisure?
90 % leisure, 10% business
12. Which one of these IM features have you used and how often?
a. Video Chat and PC to PC Phone (when at home)
b. IMvironments, rarely.
13. May I ask for a picture?
i have a pic posted on my yahoo profile but it’s not that
good. u can extract it from there. URL is :
http://profiles.yahoo.com/lady_kuiteb

i’ll send you a better one. thanks!

Ms. Konkon R. Belandres
Admin Assistant for Josie Huldong
Employee Services Philippines
Intel Technology Philippines, Inc.
Tel#: (6346) 433-5992
Fax#: (6346) 433-5986