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Yahoo launches 100MB of free e-mail

For customers of the premium service, prices are falling and the storage limit is jumping to 2GB.

Yahoo began offering on Tuesday 100MB of storage to people who use its free e-mail service.

As part of an overall redesign of its mail service, Yahoo also upgraded Mail Plus paid users to 2GB of storage and lowered its subscription rate from $29.99 a year to $19.99. Other a la carte services, such as POP e-mail forwarding, are consolidated under this plan and will no longer be sold on a standalone basis.

The storage boost comes as no surprise. Yahoo arch-rival Google in April announced plans to launch a free e-mail service called "Gmail" with 1GB of storage. The upcoming launch of Gmail has changed the landscape for free-e-mail users, but also raised privacy concerns because of Google's decision to serve advertisements based on scanning the content of e-mail text. Yahoo executives last month announced the company would offer its own storage upgrade as part of overall changes to the service.


Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's vice president of communications products, said the changes were enacted to make "e-mail storage a nonissue." He acknowledged that competition was a factor as well.

"There are new competitors on the scene, and we want to make sure the things we're focused on are important with users," Garlinghouse said.

The new storage limits amount to a strategic turnaround for Yahoo. In 2002, the company began charging for various tiers of storage size for its photo and briefcase products. Yahoo also lowered its free e-mail memory from 6MB to 4MB for new members.

Aside from allowing people to keep more e-mails, most changes to the new Yahoo Mail are cosmetic with a stress on making the service sleeker and faster. The product will also place more emphasis on a mail search bar at the top of the page. Unlike Google's, the Yahoo bar will not search e-mail text to serve advertisements, but will let people more easily hunt for buried correspondence.

Garlinghouse also said the company will put 50 million identities back into circulation. That means identities that have remained dormant for years will become available again. Although Yahoo has maintained a policy that it can recycle user identities after six months of dormancy, the company has taken a "very conservative approach" to offering these names back to the public, Garlinghouse said.