Better Late Than Never, Yahoo Debuts Zimbra-Powered Calendar

Yahoo has unveiled a new dynamic calendar service powered by open source developer Zimbra. Yahoo Calendar offers standard Web 2.0 information-sharing options along with an updated drag-and-drop interface and a handful of unique options. The program is available in beta to Yahoo users as of Wednesday.

The release, somewhat ironically, marks Yahoo’s first update to its online calendar system in a decade and follows Google’s Calendar launch by a full two years. Still, data from ComScore indicates Yahoo has 8.1 million registered calendar users compared to Google’s 5 million. The company, no doubt, hopes its modernization — even if delayed — will be enough to maintain that lead and ultimately translate it into higher overall traffic.

Recent traffic analyses by ComScore show Google commanding 63 percent of the U.S. search market, compared to Yahoo’s 19.6 percent — a number that took nearly a full point fall from the previous month.

Open Focus

Both Yahoo and Zimbra — which Yahoo acquired last year — are quick to point out the openness of the new Yahoo Calendar. Like Google Calendar and other online scheduling tools, the utility uses iCal and CalDAV standards to allow for easy integration with third-party services. That means users can share data with friends, even if they’re on competing programs.

“With Yahoo leveraging Zimbra technology, they’re able to reach their goals of being one of the most open calendar systems in the market,” John Robb, vice president of marketing and products at Zimbra, told LinuxInsider. “That’s something that’s always been very important to Zimbra.”

Integration Options

While many of the features will look familiar to users who have experienced Web-based calendars before, Yahoo Calendar does have some innovative functions. Flickr, for example, is built into the program, letting you add images onto your calendar’s background. Presently, you can add only public Creative Commons images, though the option to use your own personal photos is planned for a future release.

The application also boasts the ability to zoom in and out of specific dates and to drag-and-drop appointments. Eventually, the program will add integration with other Yahoo services such as, Yahoo Sports, and Yahoo TV.

“[We wanted] the ability to have mashups with other systems — whether it be Flickr, whether it be Yahoo’s Upcoming, whether it be other third parties that might be interested in providing integration points with Yahoo Calendar and Zimbra Calendar,” Robb said.

Playing Catch-Up

While the launch may appear as a bit of a game of catch-up, many see it as a crucial step for the company’s rebuilding.

“For Yahoo to move forward, it basically needs to leverage whatever research and development projects it [has], and to either create new products and services or to match those products and services of its largest competitors,” Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-It, told LinuxInsider.

“Google has obviously taken a lead here, and as users move more and more to match their online and offline lives, the dynamic calendar is a critical tool for most consumers and most business people,” he pointed out.

A Yahoo spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Double Goal

The goal, it would seem, has to be two-pronged: giving some people a reason to stay, and giving others a reason to come in.

“You basically want to make sure that you do everything you can to keep your existing users and happy customers from straying off into your competitor’s territory,” King commented. “I think the larger question for Yahoo is how this new offering and future offerings will allow the company to reach out and bring perhaps former users or even new users online to the Yahoo site and get them using Yahoo’s tools.”

One thing’s for certain, King believes: The process is only beginning, and Yahoo can plan on filling its own calendar with plenty more projects in the coming months.

“I think the calendar is a good start, but there will be an awful lot of other opportunities for online applications and services further up the road,” he said.

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