Yahoo Taps HTML5 for New iPhone E-Mail

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Yahoo previewed a slick new version of its Mail service for the iPhone that it said should be available "pretty soon."

Lee Parry, senior product manager at Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO), showed in a demo how the new Mail makes it easier to see photos sent with e-mail messages.

"On the mobile Web, a lot of content is buried, it's hard to get to," said Parry. He then showed how Mail displays photos within the e-mail and lets users scroll left or right through a series of photos or easily tap to view any image full screen.

Parry said the new Yahoo Mail for iPhone uses HTML5 and its Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) (define) feature for displaying content on the page as well as JavaScript. Advance caching techniques are also used to help the cloud-based e-mail service deliver messages quickly.

"You never have to re-fetch the e-mail, even if you're on an airplane, you can see everything you've already viewed and send a reply that's ready to send as soon as you've reconnected to the Internet," he said.

The service could be especially useful to international travelers and anyone on a limited data plan, because they can read and respond to e-mails while not connected.

While it's targeting the iPhone first, Yahoo Chief Product Officer Blake Irving said other mobile platforms, including Android and HP's Palm webOS, will also get the new Mail later on. A version for the Apple iPad is also in the works.

Initially, the HTML5 version of Yahoo Mail will be available to run for free via the iPhone's browser at a Yahoo Web site. Yahoo said it could be distributed for download at the App Store and other online marketplaces down the road, but no decision has been made on that.

Parry said Yahoo designed Mail with the idea that it could bridge the gap between mobile e-mail, which is typically lightweight when it comes to features, and more full-featured desktop e-mail. In addition to the image viewing, Mail lets you easily mark messages as spam. "You can't do that on a native iPhone app," he said. Another feature, one tap search, is designed to help users easily find the messages they're looking for.

"That's the coolest thing I've seen from this company in a while," The new Yahoo Mail leverages HTML5, the latest version of the widely-used hypertext markup language for designing Web pages with multimedia elements like audio and video. HTML5 has been championed by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG and others, but Apple's support has been particularly controversial because the company has banned the more-established Adobe Flash from its devices, while Google and others continue to support Flash as well.

Yahoo previewed the new Mail during a break Tuesday at the Hadoop Summit for developers event that it sponsored.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


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