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Yahoo Gettin’ Facebook-y (Really This Time)

yahoo-logoLast January, Yahoo first unveiled its plans to bring social networking into their email inbox. Now, over eighteen months and one new CEO later, it looks like those plans are finally ready to roll out.

In changes that bear an eerie resemblance to the most popular social network in the world, Yahoo is bringing your friends’ “connections’” updates, pictures, and birthdays, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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WSJ’s new Yahoo image Yahoo’s image from a presentation in Jan 2008

Some users in the US and Australia have already seen the changes, but the new system is set to roll out for all users over the next four weeks.

Yahoo thinks the change will be well received because so many Internet users are using social networking and email—and they believe there’s a big demand for convergence:

“Listening to our users talk about how they want to manage their online lives,” said John Kremer, the vice president of Yahoo Mail, “they are asking us to bring this stuff together and make it easier to consume their world.”

But really, this isn’t a substitute for Facebook. With Facebook, it doesn’t matter what email platform you’re on. Do you think Yahoo’s going to be collecting updates from every mail provider its users communicate with? (As if that were even possible.) In a way, your inbox becomes just another social network to keep up with. Yahoo is already working to overcome this limitation:

Your Yahoo persona does allow you to automatically feed in updates from a handful of other social services, such as Twitter. You can also identify a “connection” as somebody who doesn’t use Yahoo email, but that person has to sign up for a Yahoo account to take full advantage of the sharing. Kremer said that Yahoo will add more outside connection capabilities over time, including the ability for Yahoo status updates to feed into other social networking systems.

To help manage all this, Yahoo is integrating its recent acquisition, Xoopit, a social/email app “that finds photos, video, links and other files in email so that users can surface and then share them on many sites,” as AllThingsD described it. Yahoo Mail will have a new “My Photos” app.

I know what you’re wondering—will it integrate with Flickr? In a word, yep.

Future plans include integrating an invitations app from Evite.

What do you think? Do you want your social updates in your inbox, or is this just one more thing you have to keep up with?