Believe it or not, Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) did more than just report earnings this week. It also gave investors -- and Yahoo! mail users -- a glimpse at a bit of the synergies it's been promising for years.
On Tuesday, Yahoo! announced on Tumblr (which it bought earlier this year for $1.1 billion) that at some point in the near future, Yahoo! mail users may get a shot at winning the email address of their dreams.
Ever since the dawn of the Internet, early adopters have rushed in to grab primo email addresses for themselves when a new service opened, leaving later adopters to pick through the trash of unwanted email monikers such as "albert93099."
Of course, not all these adopters actually used the email addresses acquired in their land-grabs. They just wanted to keep them "handy" in case the urge to use them should arise. Yahoo!'s now trying to fix that.
Marissa Mayer: Miss Fix-it
On Tumblr, Yahoo! announced the opening of a new Web page where Yahoo! mail users can post wishlists of their top five most-desired email addresses. Users may already have a Yahoo! mail address, of course. It's just not the one they want. So to better match customer-wants with corporate-need (for more traffic on its website), Yahoo! intends to comb through its records over the next few weeks, figure out which popular email addresses have become orphaned by their owners, and reclaim them for redistribution to more worthy parents.
After matching up wishlists with available names, Yahoo! will email users who've submitted their wishlists, informing them of which email addresses have become available -- and giving everyone a second bite at the apple, to win the email address of their dreams.
Risk and opportunity
Like any exerciser of eminent domain (get it? "domain" names?), Yahoo! risks alienating the early adopters of the email addresses it is redistributing. The hope, though, is that these folks probably weren't very active Yahoo! mail users in the first place (otherwise their addresses wouldn't have become orphaned). The hope also is that the new owners will appreciate Yahoo!'s move more than the old users hate it.
More importantly, Yahoo! has taken a big step here toward regaining the innovation initiative from more successful Internet rivals such as Facebook, Microsoft, and in particular Google. Lately, Facebook has been the new kid on the block, offering up all sorts of new e-widgets to its users such as the now-open-for-business Graph Search. Microsoft actually restarted the email address wars with its launch of Outlook.com earlier this year, putting a new batch of primo email addresses up for grabs. Google has had widely publicized problems with digital dopplegangers getting each others' mail addressed to too-similar email addresses -- and now Yahoo!'s CEO is sticking a finger in the eye of her old employer, with a move designed to give users a reason to switch back from Gmail to Yahoo! mail.
Yahoo! says it will begin notifying Yahoo! mail users of addresses that have become re-available sometime mid-August -- so keep your eyes peeled. Recipients will be given 48 hours to claim their most-desired Yahoo! mail address, assuming it's become available. Wait too long, however, and you'll miss your chance at the email address of your dreams... again.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.