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Lycos: We're first with a gigabyte of e-mail

The Web portal says it has beaten Google and Yahoo to the punch--in Britain--with an e-mail service that offers oodles of storage. But free it's not.

Web portal Lycos has followed Google and Yahoo into the race to provide e-mail users with massive amounts of storage, and it claims to be beating these rivals already.

Lycos announced Tuesday that it is upgrading its service in the United Kingdom to give consumers 1GB of e-mail storage. But unlike some rival services being developed, the Lycos service is not free. Users will have to pay a monthly fee of 3.40 pounds ($6.01).

The company said it plans eventually to make the service available more broadly in Europe.

Google caused considerable excitement last month when it announced that it was developing a free service called Gmail and that it would give all users of this service 1GB of storage space--far more than the 2MB offered by MSN's Hotmail, for example. But the plans also alarmed some people, because Google said it intends to scan e-mail messages for keywords and insert targeted advertisements into the messages.

Last week, Yahoo jumped into the fray, revealing it would provide users with 100MB of free e-mail space and "virtually unlimited space" for paying customers.

Lycos' new service is already available. In a somewhat labored swipe at Google and Yahoo, Lycos was keen to point out that this makes it the first major e-mail specialist to offer a 1GB service. Google's Gmail is still in a test phase. Additionally, Spymac, a Web-hosting company for Macintosh aficionados, has announced a free 1GB service, but it is much less well-known.

"We will be interested to see when our competitors can offer the service that we already provide with a sustainable business model to underpin it. But size is not all that matters," said Alex Kovach, Lycos's European vice president.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.