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Yahoo shifts focus in photo service

Changes to the company's photo and storage sites elicit cries of bait-and-switch from users, even as the portal giant opens its photo site to unlimited storage capacity.

Changes to Yahoo's photo and storage sites have elicited cries of bait-and-switch from users, even as the portal giant opens its photo site to unlimited storage capacity.

In its ongoing effort to balance its free and paid services, Yahoo this month divided its Briefcase file storage service and its Photos storage and retail site, adjusted storage limits and restricted some downloads to paying subscribers. Previously, Yahoo lumped picture files and other files under the same storage system.

As part of that change, Yahoo eliminated its 30MB storage limit but restricted users of its free service from retrieving what it termed "really high-resolution" images--or anything above 480 by 360 pixels--unless they paid for the SBC Yahoo Internet service or Yahoo's premium Plus service.

That restriction has riled some users, who say their only high-resolution copies of some photos are stored on Yahoo's servers.

"I would say I lost about 70 full-size images," said Henri Dubois-Ferriere, a Yahoo subscriber in Lausanne, Switzerland. "The original versions have now been 'kidnapped' by Yahoo...Converting previously free services into paid services is one thing, but this is worse, because a previously free service is withdrawn with no warning, in a manner that makes users lose data they had entrusted to Yahoo."

Yahoo countered that it had warned users of its Briefcase and Photos service changes by running top-of-the-page banner advertisements directing them to an informational page.

Those banners started running in August, Yahoo said. The company has been implementing the changes over the course of this month.

Subscribers like Dubois-Ferriere who may have missed those banners still do have a free workaround for getting their pictures back--a 60-day free trial of Yahoo Plus.

Yahoo has been tinkering with charging for its Web-based services for years. The recent elimination of the 30MB limit for photographs is the result of company research that showed that the limit was stunting use of the service, as digital photography becomes more mainstream and higher-resolution cameras come down in price.