This is a great move. Yahoo! Mail has been around for nearly 11 years. There are more than 260 million active users of the service. However, new users still have to bump up against the reality that, with hundreds of millions of previous registrants, all of the good names (and even many of the not so good names) are already taken. The lack of quality screen names wasn't the only reason why Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX) AOL fell out of favor after peaking six years ago, but it surely didn't help.
Like so many things at Yahoo! these days, the launch isn't exactly smooth. This morning's press release touts global availability of the two new domains, yet going to either one simply redirects back to Yahoo! Mail, where the original "@..." domain is the only option for new signups. Canada's The Globe and Mail is reporting that the new domains won't go up until 4 p.m. today, but one has to wonder why Yahoo! isn't spelling that out in the release.
The press release also indicates that a special page on eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) has been set up to auction off the choicest email addresses for charity, but that page was not running as of this morning.
One can only hope that the actual service will go more smoothly than the launch. Email, even free email, is something that can't be taken lightly. Yahoo! buried failed projects such as consumer-to-consumer auctions and its PayDirect micropayment service, but it's hard to go back on email. Once users start updating their address books and start putting ymail and rocketmail addresses on their business cards, a company could certainly alienate the community if it ditches the offering.
With a rush expected today as users try to nab easy email addresses, Yahoo! is going to be busy today. Let's hope it delivers the goods and monetizes accordingly.