SBC Yahoo! Joins Anti-Pop-Up Crusade

Yahoo and SBC Communications announced a number of new features to its broadband and dial-up Internet service, including the ability to block out unwanted pop-up advertisements and a service aimed at small businesses.

The new protection features include more parental controls, as well as anti-virus and pop-up blocking software. Yahoo and SBC also added communications options, such as easier file sharing, a shared browsing option, and a new SBC Yahoo browser. Both DSL and dial-up subscribers will have access to the new options.

The improvements seek to build on the momentum of Yahoo’s successful partnership with SBC to provide co-branded Internet access. Although Yahoo has not said how many subscribers have joined the service, it has reported strong growth in its revenue from fees, which is where it accounts for the partnership income. Last quarter, SBC reported adding 304,000 DSL customers.

The SBC Yahoo browser allows the service to offer users greater personalization. It will come with a status bar that updates the number of pop-ups blocked and current parental controls. The portal page has also been redesigned, with users able to customize it with more than 100 content modules and set preferences for information like weather, news, and sports.

In addition to the new features, the companies announced the launch of a service tailored for small businesses. It will include a portal with business content, as well as extra options like extra email storage and email marketing tools. Through a partnership with GotMarketing, Yahoo and SBC customers can send and manage permission-based email marketing campaigns. Small business can choose from a list of options at no additional charge

The service is designed to appeal to the objects of Terry Semel’s desire since taking over as Yahoo’s chief executive: small businesses. Semel has oriented the company to providing small businesses with all the tools they need to operate online, from job listings on HotJobs to extra email and storage to keyword advertising through newly acquired Overture Services.

The service’s new personalization tools mark Yahoo’s first foray into blocking pop-up advertisements. Subscribers will have the option to either limit the number and type of pop-up ads they receive, or eliminate them completely.

Both AOL and EarthLink have rolled out pop-up blockers to lure customers frustrated by the barrage of intrusive Internet advertising. (MSN plans to release a pop-up blocker in its next upgrade.) Likewise, a number of search toolbars now come with built-in pop-up blocking options, including those from Google and Alta Vista. (Yahoo will take ownership of Alta Vista, a subsidiary of Overture, when its deal to acquire Overture closes in the fourth quarter.)

Despite the profusion of pop-up blocking options available to consumers, analysts believe the number in use is still quite small. Nielsen//NetRatings analyst Marc Ryan recently said that a test the researcher did found that between 20 and 25 percent of users were blocking pop-up ads. However, he added that the sample was small and unlikely to reflect the entire Internet population. Jupiter Research analyst Nate Elliott said he believes the number of Internet users with pop-up blockers is far fewer.

“Pop-up blockers are the Internet’s version of Tivo — the industry likes to wring its hands over blockers, but they’re still not widely used,” he said. “For now I’d characterize blockers as more of a phenomenon than a trend.”

The pop-up controls and virus protection build on the anti-spam tools offered to SBC Yahoo members earlier this year through SpamGuard.

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