Despite its shouting moniker, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) has generally consisted of a silent set of Internet services. Its services provide insights into the virtual world, where your fingers do the walking. Now, voices are about to be heard, judging by its "vocal" hook-up with British Telecom announced today.

It's vocal because it will incorporate Yahoo! Messenger with British Telecom's new voice over Internet protocol, better known as VOIP, which will allow users to make phone calls over Yahoo!'s messaging software.

The deal merges two important, recent concepts that investors find pretty hot. First off, the changing regulatory landscape, the return of capital expenditures, and improving VOIP phone call quality have made it a buzzword over recent months.

Secondly, IM has been subject to all kinds of efforts at convergence recently. Theoretically, your fingers won't do the walking anymore, when the software adds such qualities as voice and videoconferencing.

For years, the popularity of Yahoo! Messenger and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) version, MSN Messenger, paled in comparison to Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online Instant Messenger. However, that all changed last August, when AIM's market share fell to 58.5% from 61.5%. Theoretically, all the heavyweights are scrambling for users by adopting newfangled premium services.

British Telecom hopes this added service will help garner customers in an increasingly competitive telecom market, where Internet services are growth vehicles. Meanwhile, Yahoo! seeks more ways to bring in revenue through premium services. According to the deal's press announcement, charges for the service would be added to British Telecom's users' home telephone bills and the companies will share the revenues.

As much as I have my own questions as to how much people really need this service, I see some degree of usefulness in knowing your party's available via IM, then ringing them through the same software. It's true, sometimes an IM conversation can turn into a manifesto.

However, if I really felt like talking to one of my buddies, I probably would just call by regular phone. And as I've pointed out before, IM lets you carry on many different conversations at once or fire up a chat room with a slew of friends. Judging by the way most of us view our beloved messaging clients, it's uncertain whether this is a premium loads of people will pay for.

Shout out to other Yahooligans on the Yahoo! discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Years ago, she thought the idea of IM was "creepy" -- who wants all their friends to know when they're online? She couldn't go without it now.