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Yahoo's Open Source Zimbra Gets Social

Social media services like Twitter are becoming increasingly ingrained into our everyday computing experience. The latest push is coming from Yahoo's new Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) 6.0 release, which includes direct integration of a Twitter client together with enterprise e-mail and collaboration capabilities.

The Zimbra 6 release is the first major release of Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) open source e-mail platform, since the ZCS 5 release in February 2008. The ZCS 6 release includes a long list of improved and new features building on requests that came from both commercial users and Zimbra's open source user community.

While the new release, took 18 months to put out, executives said that the time gap had nothing to do with any sort of difficulties within Yahoo.

"This was an odd cycle," Jim Morrisroe, general manager of Zimbra at Yahoo, told InternetNews.com. "I think the pace of innovation won't be six or nine months as it was between Zimbra 3 and 4, but a yearly major release is the goal of the group. The 18 month development cycle was not a factor of any management or ownership changes, it had to do with the fact that it was the first release that came out when we had thousands and thousands of customers."

Zimbra now has over 50 million paid mailboxes in use ranging across organizations big and small, including notables such as Comcast. Zimbra was acquired by Yahoo for $350 million in 2007. Morrisroe said that since the acquisition, 99 percent of the Zimbra staff have remained with Yahoo.

A lot of things have changed in the Internet landscape since the ZCS 5.0 release -- most notably, the rise of Twitter. In the ZCS 6 release, Zimbra has addressed social media mash-ups with a new social "zimlet" -- a Zimbra technology that provides a widget architecture by which users or software developers can create mash-ups.

With the Zimbra Social zimlet , Morrisroe explained that Zimbra is making it more convenient for users to aggregate all of their social media feeds. Zimbra Social integrates a user's Facebook, Twitter and Digg accounts into ZCS, so that social media becomes an extension of the entire collaboration experience.

ZCS 6 also includes new hierarchical administration features that Morrisroe expects will be attractive to large enterprise users who require granular user control. For end users, some of the other new features they'll notice are the inclusion of read receipts to outgoing e-mail as well as a an option to do a mandatory spell check on messages.

ZCS 6 is available in two editions -- an open source edition and the paid network version, which provides additional Microsoft Exchange and Blackberry synchronization options.

Moving forward, the plan for Zimbra is to continue to expand the global footprint of its installed base.

"What we're working on for 2010 is to broaden the languages and geographies where we market Zimbra," Morrisroe said. "This is now an execution game for us to expand our market coverage from both a sales and marketing standpoint. We're pretty well set up; we have 90 countries already. I think we're well positioned to do it -- we have the super support of the team here at Yahoo."