polls_yahoo_vs_google_5640_510832_poll_xlargeWho’s ready for a Yahoo e-mail update?

Announced today, Yahoo will give its e-mail users an overdue facelift in an attempt to make it more appealing to people who are increasingly using alternatives such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google.  Yahoo is counting on the changes to help attract and retain e-mail users at a time when more people are flocking to the rival Gmail service run by search leader Google, according to news reports.

The overhaul will enable updates to Facebook and Twitter accounts to be posted from within Yahoo’s e-mail boxes. Other tools include better junk-mail controls and the ability to chat with friends and family logged into Facebook. The revamped service is supposed to be two times faster and capable of sending attachments of up to 100 megabytes, news reports say.

Cultivating loyal e-mail users is important because they tend to be frequent visitors and they often remain logged in when using other online services run by the e-mail providers. The return trips and logged-in activity creates more opportunities to show Internet ads, the main way that both Yahoo and Google make money.

While Yahoo’s service remains larger than Gmail, it has been losing ground in the past year, reports say. Through April, Yahoo boasted 277 million email users worldwide, a drop of about 3 million, or 1 percent, from the same time last year, according to the research firm comScore Inc. Meanwhile, Gmail had grown to 220 million worldwide users, up 43 million, or 24 percent during the past year.

The changes announced Tuesday build upon a redesigned email format that Yahoo began testing seven months ago. The estimated 277 million users of Yahoo’s free e-mail service will be switched to the new version during the next few weeks.