Yahoo's free mail service to offer 1G byte of storage

Yahoo will increase the inbox storage of its free Web mail service from 250M bytes to 1G byte.

Yahoo will increase the inbox capacity of its free Web mail service for the third time in the past 9 months, now raising storage to 1G byte, matching Google's Gmail and exceeding Microsoft's Hotmail.

Yahoo Mail users all over the world will begin to see the larger inboxes between late April and early May, said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's vice president of communications products.

Yahoo decided to increase the inbox capacity because it has become apparent that users are increasingly storing messages with large attachments, such as photos, he said.

Keeping up with user demands is important because Web mail service plays a big role in people's overall consumption of Yahoo content and services, Garlinghouse said.

"Today e-mail is a much richer and essential part of people's lives than it was five-plus years ago, and the more essential Yahoo Mail is to someone's life the more engaged they will be with the overall Yahoo network," he said.

Yahoo's Web mail is indeed a very important starting point for engaging users, said Charlene Li, a Forrester Research analyst. "The big three doorways (to Yahoo) are the homepage, My Yahoo and Yahoo Mail," she said.

In mid-2004, Yahoo increased the inbox size of its free Web mail service from 4M bytes to 100M bytes, and later to 250M bytes, which is the current capacity.

Web mail service providers of all sizes have increased their inbox storage in the past year as a reaction to Google's free Gmail service, which offers 1G byte to its users. For example, Microsoft increased the inbox storage of its free Hotmail service from 2M bytes to 250M bytes after Gmail was announced.

Although Google triggered a massive reaction from Web mail providers when it announced Gmail in April 2004, Gmail remains in test, or beta, mode and isn't generally available except through invitations and through random offers via the main Google.com page.

With this move, Yahoo is anticipating the moment when Gmail is launched to the general public, so that inbox storage will not be a competitive advantage for Google, Li said.

Yahoo is also beefing up the free Yahoo Mail service's antivirus capabilities by allowing users to clean infected attachments, Garlinghouse said. This feature was previously only available to subscribers of Yahoo's fee-based Web mail service, which is called Yahoo Mail Plus and costs US$19.95 per year. Yahoo Mail Plus offers subscribers 2G bytes of inbox storage along with other features not available to free users.

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