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Yahoo service will let users stay connected

February 13, 2008|From Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO — The last thing the world needs is another social network that lets users chat with their friends, the head of Yahoo Inc.'s mobile Internet business said.

What users need is a way to keep track of all of them.

"Today, most people have too many forms of communications," said Marco Boerries, senior vice president of Yahoo's Connected Life unit. "To keep in touch with all of them, you have to go to all of these different websites."

Yahoo said Tuesday that it was introducing a new tool called oneConnect that fits snippets of the Web's most popular services -- from Yahoo and rivals such as Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Facebook -- onto cellphone screens.

OneConnect unifies a user's personal contacts in a single place -- a mobile phone -- and demonstrates the progress that Yahoo has made in entering the fast-emerging mobile Internet market while it struggles to overcome repeated setbacks against Google in Web search and advertising.

Boerries said major phone carriers worldwide had agreed to use oneConnect to send e-mail, instant messages and photo-sharing and social-networking site updates to mobile customers.

"This is about reinventing mobile communications," he said at the Mobile World Congress, a major annual industry fair in Barcelona, Spain. "I get a complete view of what's going on in my world."

OneConnect will be available in the second quarter. Versions of the service can run on a majority of mass-market mobile phones, and Yahoo said it would create special versions to work on Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry.

OneConnect is part of a strategy to allow Yahoo services to work with those of rival services, thereby making it a more relevant starting point for users.

It lets users move back and forth between different modes of conversation on the same mobile phone: A user might text-message a friend, then switch to an instant-message service both use to hold a longer conversation without incurring per-message charges.

OneConnect automatically searches the Web to find contacts in services such as News Corp.'s MySpace, AIM, Bebo, Xing, Friendster or Orkut and merges them into the user's mobile phone address book.

Yahoo gives users control over how much privacy they want, and the default setting is "invisible" -- meaning no one knows what the user is doing.

Services such as Twitter and Facebook have popularized so-called status-casting -- quick messages such as "I'm busy" or "Headed to the theater" to let others know what a user is up to. OneConnect can broadcast the same status message to multiple networks.

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