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Yahoo tests paging service

The Net giant is quietly testing a new instant messaging system, looking to capitalize on the success of rival America Online and others.

Net giant Yahoo (YHOO) is quietly testing a new instant messaging system called Yahoo Pager, looking to capitalize on competitor America Online's success with its signature feature.

Although Yahoo is staying mum on the issue, it clearly is hoping those who visit its page won't do the same.

"Yahoo Pager is a free service that lets you stay in touch with friends and more," reads a message on Yahoo's site.

The system allows people who sign up to "page" each other online and send instant messages.

In other words, it's just like many other instant messaging services that are becoming increasingly common on the Net.

AOL first popularized the feature with its Instant Messenger service, now used by others such as Netscape Communications.

One of Yahoo's prime competitors, Excite, launched a paging service in June.

Paging services are joining the ranks of free email, chat, and other add-ons that have become standard among sites seeking to become users' gateway to the Internet. As more and more sites join the fierce competition for loyal users and the subsequent ad dollars they bring, Net companies are bending over backward to differentiate themselves from the pack.

But, like free email, the fact that paging services are becoming so ubiquitous makes them less special, and less of an incentive by themselves for users to come to any one site. A lack of paging services could cause users to defect, however.