Google starts charging for extra storage

Space shared between Picasa and Gmail runs $20 per year for 6GB more

Just hours after Microsoft rolled out its Skydrive online storage service on Thursday, Google unveiled pricing for shared online storage available to both Gmail and Picasa, the search giant's Web-based e-mail and photo services, respectively.

The new storage space, which Google took pains to stress is in addition to the free allowance for each service (1GB for Picasa, 2.8GB for Gmail), is priced starting at US$20 a year for another 6GB. In the first 20 minutes after the paid storage debuted, however, Google sold the 6GB bump for just US$1 a year; that was quickly changed to US$20.

Other plans provide an extra 25GB for US$75 annually, 100GB for US$250, and 250GB for US$500.

In comparison, Microsoft's Windows Live Skydrive, which it relaunched Friday with interface changes and a name change from Live Folders, offers 500MB, about 18 percent of Gmail's free limit.

"When you reach the limit of free storage, consider this your overflow solution," said Ryan Aquino, a software engineer on Google's Picasa team, on Google's primary blog. Other Google products, like Docs and Spreadsheets, the company's offline applications, will be able to access the shared storage "soon," Aquino added.

At one time, Google touted an "Infinity+1" strategy for Gmail's online storage space, but later settled on the current 2.8GB.

In March, rival Yahoo announced unlimited storage for its Web mail service. However, Yahoo flags accounts that it thinks are being used for online storage, rather than simply storing e-mails.

Google was not available for comment Thursday night to answer questions about the $1-per-year offering -- typo or change of heart? -- or why it decided to abandon Infinity+1 and charge for storage.

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Gregg Keizer

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