As a Yahoo! Messenger user, you’re used to seeing ads when you’re chatting with friends. We know you see ads all over the Internet, so it’s always a challenge for us to serve up compelling ads that are unique.
This weekend you’ll see ads in Yahoo! Messenger for Discovery Channel’s new Life series, which begins March 21. Narrated by Oprah Winfrey, Life is an 11-part series about the natural world around us, and is the follow up to the critically acclaimed series, Planet Earth.
Rather than just offer up the usual banner ads, we’ve partnered with Life to integrate some fun Messenger functionality into their ads. If you see a Life ad in Yahoo! Messenger, be sure to click to expand it. You can watch a video preview of the series and then with just a click, share it with your IM friends, update your status to tell your friends about the show, or even change your display image to one of the cool animal images from the show.
While we know ads can sometimes distract you from what you’re doing in Yahoo! Messenger, we hope you’ll find that these special Life ads instead enhance your IM experience by giving you something fun to share with your friends.
One of our lesser known but very useful products is the Yahoo! Messenger Pingbox. With a copy and paste of some code, you can embed a chat window into your website, blog or social networking page. Then when visitors come to your page, they can see when you’re online and initiate a private IM conversation with you.
My friend Jim has a Pingbox on his neighborhood blog. While he’s on Yahoo! Messenger all day, his status says “Available” in his Pingbox. When visitors come to his site, he can see the counter change next to the Pingbox in his contact list. If someone wants to chat with him, they simply start typing in the Pingbox on the website, which in turn opens up a new IM conversation for Jim. His visitors can remain anonymous or give themselves a nickname while they chat.
One of the greatest things about Pingbox is that there is no need for anyone to know your Yahoo! ID or for you to know theirs. In fact visitors to your site don’t even need a Yahoo! ID to start chatting with you. You can also turn your Pingbox on or off right from your Yahoo! Messenger 10 contact list, so if you find you’re being interrupted too often by chatty visitors, you can go dark for awhile.
Jim says one of the things he really likes is that when he hovers on the Pingbox visitors in his contact list, it will show him what page on his site that visitor is on. But mostly he likes to see the number of people that are passing through his site all day and be available to them. He says he’s gotten some good tips about neighborhood stories from his Pingbox chats.
If you have your own blog, website or social networking page, it’s easy to add a Pingbox. Just visit the Yahoo! Messenger Pingbox Studio and click the “Create a Pingbox” button. You can customize your background, text size, display name, and whether or not you want to show your display image. You can even put in a custom message that users will see in the Pingbox when you’re online, or when you’re offline. Once you’re done, you’ll receive some code that you can copy and paste into your site.
Then just login to Yahoo! Messenger using the same Yahoo! ID under which you created your Pingbox and voila – you’ll see a new group in your contact list and if you have visitors, a count next to the group name. Note that in order to appear online and receive messages from your Pingbox, you need to be signed in to Yahoo! Messenger 10 or Yahoo! Messenger for Mac. However unlike version 10, the Mac version does not display your Pingbox visitors in your contact list.
Do you use a Pingbox on your website, blog or social networking page (e.g. Facebook, MySpace)? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
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.