Yahoo's acquisition of eGroups, a community-enabling Web service that specializes in email lists, highlights the portal giant's desire to extend its influence further beyond the browser.
eGroups claims 800,000 email groups
Yahoo usually acquires companies not for brand or traffic but for substantial infrastructure--particularly in areas where consumer information will reside. Automated mailing lists constitute one such area, and eGroups claims to have handled some 3.6 billion messages in March 2000.
It is important to consider such email lists not solely as an email tool but as a tool to support asynchronous messaging among user groups, however.
Yahoo Clubs, Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Messenger already allow Yahoo members to communicate. The company's decision to add eGroups indicates a conviction that email lists differ from the other aspects of electronic contact. A hint to how they differ appears in Yahoo's indication that eGroups will contribute to its newly announced small-enterprise portal program, Corporate Yahoo.
eGroups' mailing lists will probably serve Yahoo as a sort of intermediate stage of communication between the deep affinity available to club members--those who share photos, calendars and interests, for example--and the ephemeral, narrow affinity represented by one-to-one communication via messenger and email.
eGroups' functions will no doubt connect people with intermittent interests, such as inter- and intra-enterprise committees. It also is likely to be integrated into Yahoo Store functions as an advanced email marketing feature for which customers will pay extra.
(To read an interview with V.A. Shiva, founder and CEO of EchoMail, that explains the science behind intelligent email response systems, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)
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