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According to sources close to the company, Yahoo is prepping to launch a major overhaul of Yahoo Mail — which sources said has a cleaner, “more Gmail-like” look.

I am not clear exactly what thatmeans in terms of features and design. But sources said the goal of the redo — which has been initiated by new CEO Marissa Mayer, who is also pushing ahead with a new homepage design — is to better compete with the fast-growing mail offering from Google.

“Marissa thinks Yahoo Mail has been a big missed opportunity for the company and she wants to fix that,” said one person with knowledge of the effort, which had also been mulled by previous CEO Scott Thompson.

Sources said the latest iteration of Yahoo Mail will be released in early December, just after the new homepage is rolled out widely.

That’s a lot of change at a critical money-making time for Yahoo, but Mayer — a former top Google product exec — has publicly committed the company to releasing innovative and mobile-focused products as a key differentiator.

It’s a good idea when it comes to Yahoo Mail, even though it got a major refresh just about a year ago. At the time, the first change in five years got good reviews, with a cleaner design, Twitter and Facebook integration, improved spam filters and speedier delivery.

Unfortunately, since then, Google’s Gmail has became the most popular email service in the world, passing Microsoft’s Hotmail (which is now called after a recent rejiggering), according to recent stats from comScore. That has added up to Gmail’s 287.9 million monthly unique visitors worldwide, 286.2 million for Microsoft’s email product and 281.7 million for Yahoo Mail.

Still, in the U.S. at least, Yahoo is holding onto its longtime — though dwindling — lead, with 76.7 million using Google’s email product and 35.5 million using Microsoft’s.

It’s an important spot to maintain for Yahoo, since many of the users of its products now come to the site to access email and it has been a key driver to its content properties.

But to keep mindshare, Yahoo faces increasingly strong competition. Google’s Gmail released a series of solid improvements last fall. In addition, along with the positively reviewed Microsoft redo, AOL has just announced a new email product called Alto. While it is in beta to a small audience, it is aiming to help users with multiple email accounts organize them better.

In others words, the mail business — especially using it via smartphones and tablets — is another place Yahoo has to make sure it remains innovative.

Via: All Things D


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