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You have to feel bad for the people braving it out in Yahoo’s offices. First, people say the most valuable thing about Yahoo is its stake in Alibaba. Then, many reports indicate that the company’s board is thinking about selling off its web businesses. And now? The all-but-forgotten Messenger service has received a long-delayed revamping.
The new Messenger looks good enough. Yahoo has included some interesting features, like the ability to lump contacts into groups or delete anything from a conversation, into an app that looks like pretty much every other messaging tool. But is that enough to convince anyone to use an app they’ve already abandoned?
There was a time when Yahoo Messenger’s primary competition was AOL Instant Messenger. (Which, as I learned this morning, apparently still exists.) That time has passed. Now, the messaging market is overrun with apps like Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WeChat, and many similar services.
This has become something of a theme for Yahoo. Its email service was also quite popular — now, at least in my experience, its inboxes function mostly as a digital trashcan for notifications from long-abandoned Myspace accounts and spam. That service received an update similar to Messenger’s earlier this year.
There are some good ideas tucked into all these updates. Besides the features mentioned above, the new Messenger also deserves special mention because it uses Yahoo’s other properties to assist in photo-sharing (Flickr) or make it easy for people to search GIFs (Tumblr) without requiring much effort on their part.
The Verge reports that the new Messenger builds off “at least 10” of the acquisitions Yahoo has made since Marissa Mayer became its chief executive. Finding a way to make these seemingly haphazard buyouts do something useful might just be the most interesting thing about this updated Messenger service.
Still, the fact of the matter is that people are unlikely to use the new Messenger. Most already have a few messaging services on their phone, and unless people resuscitate their Yahoo accounts to be more than secondary email addresses, it would be surprising if more than a few diehards gave this app a second chance.
Yahoo was willing to pull Messenger from the brink — this update comes months after the company pulled the app from the App Store to “to better focus on our core and future offerings,” as it said in a support article. Given that many people probably sought replacements in that time, and that using Yahoo Messenger in 2015 feels a lot like searching the web with AskJeeves, this app seems like a decent idea that’s arriving a few years too late to make much difference to Yahoo.