Yahoo wants to make its Web e-mail service a place you never want to--or more importantly--have to leave to get your social fix.
The company on Wednesday is releasing an overhauled version of its Yahoo Mail Beta client that it says is twice as fast as the previous version, while managing to tack on new features like an integrated Twitter client, rich media previews, and a more full-featured IM client.
Yahoo says this speed boost should be especially noticeable to users outside the U.S. with latency issues, due mostly to the new version making use of the company's cloud computing technology. This means that if you're on a spotty connection, the app can adjust its behavior to keep pages from timing out, or becoming unresponsive.
Besides the speed and performance increase, which Yahoo says were the top users requests, the company has added a very robust Twitter client, which joins the existing social-sharing tools for Facebook and Yahoo. You can post to just Twitter, or any combination of the other two services, as well as see Twitter status updates in the update stream below. Yahoo has long had a way to slurp in Twitter feeds, but now you can do things like reply and retweet without leaving the page.
If asynchronous updates are not your thing, Yahoo has also tuned its integrated IM service to include some desktop software-like features, including window docking and tabbed conversations. This lets you keep a chat with several people running in one window while you go about with other e-mail tasks.
On top of these changes, Yahoo has added a welcome feature in the form of media previews. Now, when you get a link to a YouTube video, a Flickr or Picasa photoset, you can view that content without leaving the message. Clicking on any of these items, as well as attached photos, will open them up in a simple lightbox viewer.
To get the new features, users will need to opt in to Yahoo's Beta for Mail. They are not yet integrated into the company's Classic mail service.