Yahoo pictures easier photo sharing

Site launches a beta for free e-mail service designed to let subscribers more easily send and share digital photos. Images: Yahoo puts its stamp on photo sharing

Yahoo has launched a beta of improvements to its free e-mail service that are designed to let subscribers more easily send and share digital photos, the company said Thursday.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo, which hosts the top-ranked Web-based e-mail service, said the PhotoMail beta will scan photos on a person's hard drive, and if a person so chooses, drag and drop selections into an e-mail message, without adding cumbersome attachments. The new service can also scour for photos in a person's Yahoo storage locker and Yahoo's image database of 1.5 billion pictures.

"We're maximizing your time and experience," said Andy Spillane, a vice president in Yahoo Mail division.

Photo-sharing technology is a hot area of development. Yahoo, for example, recently introduced a new instant-messaging technology that lets people view photos in a chat window much like a slide show.

Meanwhile, competitors are eyeing the market. Last year, Google bought photo service Picasa, which includes an instant-messaging application for picture sharing. The company has made several updates to the photo service, and many industry watchers expect Google to unveil an instant-messaging client of its own.

Numerous rivals include Kodak's Ofoto, Shutterfly and Webshots, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of

With Yahoo's PhotoMail service, people can include up to 300 pictures within an e-mail message in thumbnail version. People can also add captions and borders to photos with the software.

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