Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) is making it easier to choose between e-mail and instant-messaging tools by bringing the two together in its popular free Yahoo Mail program, an executive said on Thursday.

Yahoo Mail, which counts 250 million active monthly users, plans in coming months to incorporate the Yahoo Messenger instant-messaging program inside the e-mail service, Yahoo executive Brad Garlinghouse said.

Consumers will be able to run the two programs in one Web browser. There is no need to download Yahoo Messenger software, a complication for users who are not technically inclined.

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Yahoo's melding of e-mail and instant messaging follows the lead of rival Google Inc. (GOOG), which merged its Google Talk instant-message chat service with its Gmail e-mail program. But Yahoo's audience is roughly 10 times larger than Google's base of e-mail users, according to industry data.

In the first public demonstration of the combined service at the Web 2.0 conference here, Garlinghouse and a colleague showed how, when a user opens up and addresses an e-mail, an icon appears if he or she is online.

Clicking the icon instantly transforms a conversation from the delayed, read-it-when-you-have-a-chance way people use e-mail into the immediate back-and-forth of an instant message conversation.

The existing version of Yahoo Messenger also offers Web-calling capabilities. Yahoo is considering how and whether to incorporate these calling features inside the merged Yahoo e-mail and instant messaging system, a spokeswoman said.