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Tue 18 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Yahoo bumps up megabytes

Internet giant Yahoo has announced plans to increase the amount of storage it offers users of its free e-mail service.

Internet giant Yahoo has announced plans to significantly increase the amount of storage it offers users of its free e-mail service as part of a push to boost subscriber numbers.

Following Google’s recent announcement that it had begun testing its free 1GB Gmail service, Yahoo’s CEO, Terry Semel, this week used Yahoo’s annual financial analyst day to talk up the firm’s plans to offer users 100MB of free e-mail storage from this summer onwards.

This represents a large expansion of Yahoo’s free service, as at present the free version of Yahoo Mail offers users just 4MB. Yahoo subscribers demanding more space must currently pay between $19 and $49 for capacities of 25MB up to 100MB.

The other main player in the free e-mail market, Microsoft, offers users of its Hotmail service just 2MB of free storage and charges $10 dollars more than Yahoo, $59.95, for 100MB of storage capacity.

Since Google’s spoof-style announcement of its new Gmail service six weeks ago, the amount of storage offered by free e-mail services has become an area of focus in the industry. Spymac for example, an internet community for Macintosh devotees, last month launched a free 1GB e-mail service, in effect trumping Google as Gmail is currently only at the testing stage and hasn’t yet been made publicly available.

Last month privacy concerns accompanied Google’s Gmail announcement as many in the IT industry demanded to know exactly what Google might do with all the data it acquires through owning and running e-mail accounts.

Concerns focussed primarily on the issue of cookies. The cookie that Google uses to index each user's internet searches, and the cookie it uses to determine each user's identity, could in theory be linked due to Gmail using Google's main search cookie to index e-mail messages. Privacy campaigners are dead set against any situation arising in which Google could end up comparing such sets of data, which would not be difficult due to this data being sorted, indexed and stored centrally.

As Google recently announced plans to list itself publicly on the stock market, the idea that an external organisation could potentially take the firm over and thus own such comprehensive and personal user data has been adding fuel to the fire of the debate.

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