One of my fellow Yahoos, Victor Tsaran, was on a local morning news show this week, talking about his work. Victor is a program manager on the Accessibility team here at Yahoo!.
The Accessibility team’s charter is to work with product teams, including Messenger, to make our technologies as usable as possible for disabled users.
Seeing Victor on TV reminded me of the interview I did with him in early 2007, not long after the blog started. In the video below, Victor shows me how a blind person can use Yahoo! Messenger. Close your own eyes, pretend your mouse is useless, and then think about how you would use Yahoo! Messenger.
With the help of screen reader software, a visually impaired user can enjoy the Internet and products like Yahoo! Messenger. This kind of software responds to a user’s key commands. It scans the page or application and reads the content aloud. In this way, visually impaired users can “hear” where they are on the screen or web page.
Because it reads the words aloud, a screen reader may sound wordy to people unaccustomed to it. But a visually impaired user who is adept at using the reader can set the audio playback at a lightening pace. When Victor demonstrated how he uses Yahoo! Messenger with a screen reader, it sounded to me like supersonic gibberish. But as you’ll see in the video below, Victor slowed it down for my (and perhaps yours) less able ears.
Needless to say, it gave me a unique perspective on what it’s like for a visually impaired user to use Yahoo! Messenger. For more about Victor – even his life outside of Yahoo! – check out this article and video from the Yahoo! Corporate Blog.
If you’ve upgraded to Yahoo! Messenger 10 or got a new webcam recently, chances are you’ll want to try out the high-quality voice and video call features.
As a first step, we recommend that you complete the “Voice and Video Setup” steps to ensure that your microphone, speakers/headphones, and webcam are working properly.
To get started, click on the Messenger menu and select “Preferences”. When the Preferences window opens, click “Video & Voice” on the left hand menu. This will bring up your options on the right hand side:
If you know immediately which devices you want Yahoo! Messenger to use for your camera, microphone etc., just select them in the drop down menu. Depending on your type of computer and other software or hardware you have installed, you may only have one or many options available.
For a guided setup, click the “Open Voice and Video Setup” link in the Preferences window. This will take you through three setup steps where you can select the devices you want to use for your microphone, speakers/headset and webcam. After selecting each one in the setup, you’ll be able to test and confirm they are working.
Once you’ve successfully completed the Voice and Video Setup steps, you’ll be ready to start making free PC-to-PC calls, full-screen video calls and even calls from Messenger to regular and mobile phones (premium account required). You can also click the “Place a free test call” link in the Preferences window to try out the voice feature.
Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo in their early days at Stanford
Today is Yahoo!’s 15th birthday – hooray! It’s been a long ride and we’re grateful that our users, all 600 million of them, have come along for the ride.
We’ve had the unique opportunity to help create an industry and shape the online world, and will continue to focus on the values that brought us here —working hard, having fun, being passionate about your ideas, believing in each other, and always trying to invent the future. And as we celebrate 15 years today, we are even more excited than ever about what lies ahead, and the potential of Yahoo! and the Internet.
Of course, founders Jerry Yang and David Filo didn’t set out to start one of the world’s largest Internet companies or to lead a movement that has changed the world. They were just a couple of Stanford graduate students doing our research (supposedly) while their professor was on sabbatical.
More interesting than their research was their total fascination with the web and all the cool stuff it suddenly made available. But it was incredibly hard to keep track of the thousands of great websites sprouting up everywhere. Jerry and David thought it would be fun to catalog the sites by developing a simple directory. So all this began with nothing more than a hobby to help other early Internet users.
They soon learned a huge lesson just as relevant today as then: change and growth on the Internet happen at warp speed—especially if you’re filling a need. With the proliferation of websites and with hundreds of thousands of people accessing the Yahoo! guide, it was simply impossible for Jerry and David to continue doing this on our own.
Internet growth continues to be simply phenomenal, and we’re nowhere near done. Fifteen years ago, there were 18,000 web sites and fewer than 10 million people globally on the Internet—less than one third of a single percent of the world’s population at the time. Today there are more than 200 million websites with 90,000 created daily. There are estimated to be 1.6 billion people on the internet today—about 25 percent of the world’s population.
These numbers are astonishing, but even more important and more exciting is the impact that the Internet is having on so many people around the world. From socio-economic opportunities to more accessible health care to educating the next generation and beyond, the Internet has changed the way we live, work and learn. It has overcome geographic and political barriers and has made it possible for people to raise their voices as they seek greater economic opportunity and freedom. And Yahoo! has been a leader in enabling these tremendous technological advancements every step of the way.
All this in just 15 years. Yahoo! has been built by thousands of dedicated employees, hundreds of millions of loyal users and scores of advertisers who envisioned a future that was exciting, challenging and at times daunting. We are confident that 15 years from today, we will look back in marvel at how far you, and the Internet have traveled in such a short time. Just as we are doing today.
Thanks to you, the users, for continuing to support us and use products like Yahoo! Messenger. We’ll be celebrating at all the Yahoo! offices today and know that if we could, we’d send each of you a slice of Yahoo! birthday cake.
We will be performing some server maintenance tomorrow, March 2, from 7pm to 11pm PST (4 hours).
During that time, some of our voice features will be affected. The Call History feature within Yahoo! Messenger for Windows (9.0, 10) will not be available. To view your call history (PC-to-Phone calls only) during the maintenance period, please visit the Yahoo! Voice website.
In addition, any PC-to-PC calls made or received in Yahoo! Messenger during that time will not be added to your Call History. PC-to-Phone calls will be archived normally.
The maintenance work will also affect Yahoo! Messenger for the Web. If you use this version, you will not be able to view your online message archive during this time, nor will conversations during the maintenance period be archived.
Note that IM conversation archiving in our Windows and Mac versions will not be affected during the maintenance period.
We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.