It seems everybody who's anybody in technology needs to have some sort of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) feature these days. With all the tech giants piling on, it's becoming increasingly clear that this is no longer a differentiating service. Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) is the latest to enter the fray -- its service will allow phone calls through its Yahoo! Messenger product.

According to the Associated Press, Yahoo! has been testing its Yahoo! Messenger "Skype-like abilities," such as allowing people to dial regular phone numbers or receive calls from regular phones. It will be a premium service, requiring that users pay a fee, and according to the article, Yahoo! says the launch is "imminent."

Although there has been a lot of buzz about VoIP for years now, it has reached a more fevered pitch this year because of the hype over Skype (I couldn't resist the rhyme) and eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) purchase of that company.

Meanwhile, the instant-messaging crowd has gotten into the act, what with Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) America Online unit recently integrating VoIP and other snazzy features, such as video chat, into its AIM product. And I'm sure it's just a coincidence that today I saw a new box on my Gmail account page reminding me that I can "call and IM for free" through Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Talk. Even Sony (NYSE:SNE) is bundling some VoIP capabilities, combined with video, into its computers. And let's not forget that Vonage has been providing VoIP for quite some time.

If there's anything that confuses me a bit about this news, it's that Yahoo!'s VoIP product is not a new concept. Last spring, I wrote about how the company was testing just such a service, and way back in 2004, Yahoo! converged voice and messaging through an agreement with British Telecom.

I admit it -- I was a naysayer back then. But here lately, it's become clear that consumers are adopting such communications solutions at a rapid rate. Just consider the rather amazing rise of Skype to the forefront of public interest in very little time.

Yahoo! is definitely capitalizing off trends with its pending launch of this service. However, it's quickly becoming a crowded space, and whether this move will bring in additional revenue for Yahoo! and help its messenger service gain more users remains to be seen.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.