Yahoo is to increase the inbox capacity of its free web mail service for the third time in the past nine months. The company's limit is now 1GB, exceeding Microsoft's Hotmail and matching Google's Gmail.
Yahoo Mail users all over the world will begin to see the larger inboxes between late April and early May, said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo's vice president of communications products.
Yahoo decided to increase the inbox capacity because it has become apparent that users are increasingly storing messages with large attachments, such as photos, he said.
Keeping up with user demands is important because web mail service plays a big role in people's overall consumption of Yahoo content and services, Garlinghouse said.
"Today e-mail is a much richer and essential part of people's lives than it was five-plus years ago, and the more essential Yahoo Mail is to someone's life the more engaged they will be with the overall Yahoo network," he said.
Yahoo's Web mail is indeed a very important starting point for engaging users, said Charlene Li, a Forrester Research analyst. "The big three doorways (to Yahoo) are the homepage, My Yahoo and Yahoo Mail," she said.
In mid-2004, Yahoo increased the inbox size of its free mail service from 4MB to 100MB, and later to 250MB, which is the current capacity.
Web mail service providers of all sizes have increased their inbox storage in the past year as a reaction to Google's Gmail service. For example, Microsoft increased the inbox storage of its free Hotmail service from 2MB to 250MB after Gmail was announced.
Although Google triggered a massive reaction from Web mail providers when it announced Gmail in April 2004, Gmail remains in test, or beta, mode and isn't generally available except through invitations and through random offers via the main Google.com page.
With this move, Yahoo is anticipating the moment when Gmail is launched to the general public, so that inbox storage will not be a competitive advantage for Google, Li said.
Yahoo is also beefing up the free Yahoo Mail service's anti-virus capabilities by allowing users to clean infected attachments, Garlinghouse said. This feature was previously only available to subscribers of Yahoo's fee-based web mail service, which is called Yahoo Mail Plus and costs US$19.95 per year. Yahoo Mail Plus offers subscribers 2GB of inbox storage along with other features not available to free users.