email the google-killer?

Fascinating numbers via Bernard Lunn at RWW about the true market share threat to Google of a Microsoft-Yahoo merger:

Email is 49% of Impressions. Portals and Search Engines is 10% by contrast. This is some free data from Nielsen-Netratings. click on Top Site Genres.

56% is Microsoft and Yahoo combined market share of webmail. Gmail is down at 7%. This data is via Fred Wilson’s back of envelope calculations.

And as far as email goes, Lunn notes that Hotmail is a dying joke and that Yahoo’s email product is superior:

Hotmail has lagged terribly. Most people who used it would not return, I cannot imagine who would switch (an AOL user maybe) and most people already have email. So it is a lost cause. One major reason it lagged IMHO was Microsoft fear of cannibalizing Outlook. So they won’t offer the features that users want that both Google and Yahoo have been rushing to fill. Yahoo is reputed to have the most “Outlook-like” interface and that matters massively to people making the switch.

Microsoft will probably do the smart thing and let the Yahoo team run with email. Hotmail will die as a separate brand, eventually.

It should also be noted that Yahoo acquired Oddpost in 2004, which is now the foundation of their webmail platform (and note, Yahoo mail didn’t spend long in beta, unlike Gmail which embarrassingly remains in beta mode even after the official launch in 2005.

Yahoo’s email is superior to Gmail in almost every respect except for chat integration and email conversation grouping. Yahoo’s feature set includes disposable email addresses, drag and drop, and tabbed viewing. As Lunn notes, the potential for monetization is there, both in displaying standard contextual ads as well as the option to pay Yahoo $20/year for increased storage and ad-free viewing. But what about email search?

Yahoo’s email search is truly innovative. When you type a search term, a separate pane open up and gives you additional search refinement options. Click on the thumbnail below to see how it works:

yahoo mail

Here’s a closeup of that search pane:

yahoo mail search

It’s amazing how functional and useful this is after a while. It’s also easy to see how this could be a vector for additional monetization. It’s not hard to see how Yahoo could place ads below the preview pane and search-specific ad results in the search refinement pane, even for paying customers like me (free Yahoo mail puts ads at the top of the page, and inserts text on outgoing mail in the footer but obviously this hasn’t impacted their market share.)

And as for integrated chat, since MS messenger and Yahoo Messenger already talk to each other, we can expect that the mail client won’t be static on that front either.

So, 49% and 56% indeed. It’s not hard to see why Microsoft is going after Yahoo, or why Google is afraid.