Last week Yahoo! integrated Yahoo Instant Messenger into their mail platform as part of Yahoo!'s push to get back into the web-paging system.
After a short stint as one of the top 3 IM services in the mid 90's, Yahoo! has lost momentum and failed to capitalize on the offering. This may only be a pea-size strategic shortcoming in the grand scheme of things (hostile M&A threats, executive exodus, inability to monetize on content, etc.) but it apparently disrupted Yahoo!'s sleep enough for it to attempt bringing it back.
By including Yahoo! IM in its platform, Yahoo! attempts to compete with AOL IM, Microsoft's recent acquisition of Flash Communication, Twitter, Facebook, and even moreso- SMS. To its advantage are simplicity and user presence: once users are already on the email platform, it's simple to enter an instant message into the small box on the left: no IM launch needed. To its disadvantage are the many desktop applications which are making instant messaging much cooler, more expansive, and the growing use of SMS originating from mobile phones (2.3 trillion SMSs, in fact, have been exchange across major markets in 2008).
But Yahoo! must know its strategy should include much more than a revitlized IM service--even if it can cut across all web paging destinations and over to mobile phones. It will be interesting to see whether Yahoo! stops here or if this is the lightning before the storm. God knows Yahoo! needs all the rain it can get these days.