Yahoo said Thursday that it will soon implement new fees in once-free areas on its service, marking the Web portal's latest effort to boost non-advertising revenue.
The company said it will begin charging for a feature that lets people check their Yahoo e-mail messages from outside services. In addition, the company will limit public access to its data storage service in hopes of persuading people to pay for it.
"For-pay services on Yahoo, originally launched in February 1999, have experienced great acceptance from our base of active registered users, and we expect this adoption to continue to grow," said Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako.
Over the past year, Yahoo has begun charging for certain services to counterbalance the crippling effects of the weak advertising environment. Yahoo executives have publicly stated their intention to charge for services that are costly to run, such as data storage within its e-mail, photo and file-sharing areas.
The company recently began charging for specific features on its home-page builder, GeoCities. And earlier this week, Yahoo began surveying customers to gauge their willingness to pay for streaming video.
The first set of fees affect a service that allows Yahoo Mail users to
consolidate their e-mail messages from outside accounts accessed through software such as Microsoft Outlook or Qualcomm's Eudora.
Beginning April 24, Yahoo's Mail Forwarding service will cost $29.99 a year, according to a message posted on Yahoo's site. People who subscribe before April 24 will pay $19.99 for the first year.
The paid Mail Forwarding service will allow people to use outside e-mail services to access Yahoo Mail, automatically forward mail to another e-mail account, and send attachments of up to 5MB instead of the current 1.5MB limit. Paying subscribers will not have a Yahoo text advertisement attached to the bottom of their outgoing messages.
In addition to changes in free e-mail, Yahoo plans to pull back on services that rely on data storage. Beginning March 25, nonpaying visitors to Yahoo Photos only will be able to view thumbnails on the page. People who pay for extra storage will be able to view high-resolution files. All visitors will be able to order prints of digital photos.
The company also will place restrictions on a Yahoo Briefcase service that allows people to uploaded files, requiring hosts to pay for extra storage if they want to let non-Yahoo members access files.
Extra storage costs $24.95 a year for 50MB and $34.95 a year for 100MB. The plan also comes in monthly payments of $2.95 and $4.95, respectively. People who have already purchased storage will not be affected by the changes.
For many Yahoo users, the service change was expected. The mood around message boards such as EmailDiscussions.com was one of resignation that the Web is outgrowing its freewheeling past.
"I have sorta expected Yahoo to do something like this," one person's post read.
Al Hogan, a Washington, D.C., computer consultant and Yahoo shareholder, applauded the company for finding a price point that wasn't too expensive.
"They've done their market research; it's hard to argue with $2 a month," Hogan said. "It would be more (of) a pain for me to update everyone that my address has changed. I would rather pay the fee."