RealTime IT News

Mail Search Gets Hotter

Yahoo isn't ready to concede the e-mail search market to Google .

In a deal that signals an aggressive response to the growing popularity of Google's Gmail service, Yahoo has acquired Stata Labs, a start-up that markets the Bloomba e-mail application and the SAproxy spam-blocking technology.

The deal comes just three months after Yahoo gobbled up the Oddpost webmail service, which features built-in RSS capabilities.

Financial terms of the Stata Labs acquisition were not released, and Yahoo did not say what it planned to do with the Bloomba and SAproxy technologies.

"This acquisition will provide Yahoo with exceptional technological expertise and strategic assets," the company said in a note posted online.

Yahoo already offers webmail service -- free and paid versions -- to millions of users. Industry watchers suspect the firm is working on a massive overhaul of the Yahoo Mail service to integrate the strengths of Oddpost, Bloomba and SAproxy.

The Oddpost deal gave Yahoo a nifty Microsoft Outlook look-alike service that uses JavaScript and DHTML running in Internet Explorer. Google's Gmail has a close resemblance to Oddpost's Web interface.

Stata Labs' Bloomba brings mail searching capabilities with a unique twist. In addition to offering text-based searches in messages and attachments, Bloomba offers a "Saved Search" feature that locates messages based on customized search criteria. It also comes with built-in capabilities for searching names in contact lists or events in a user's calendar.

The latest acquisition also gives Yahoo an anti-spam element with the SAproxy service, which acts as a proxy between the user and the e-mail server. SAproxy sits between the mail server and the desktop and uses a scoring system to tag unsolicited messages.

Yahoo said it would continue supporting Stata Labs' existing customers for one year.

Mail search, spam blocking and data storage are the critical features in the webmail business, where Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are all duking it out for real estate to serve advertising to users.

In addition to Gmail, Google just released a beta test of a desktop search application capable of sifting through a user's entire hard drive.

Microsoft isn't exactly standing pat either. The company recently acquired Lookout Software and re-released the search tool for Outlook users.

The software giant also hosted a Search Champs event at its Redmond headquarters, where a handful of bloggers and developers were offered a glimpse into Microsoft's plans on the search front. Attendees were asked to sign NDAs, leading to widespread speculation that a standalone desktop search tool could be in the future.