Yahoo Promises Unlimited E-Mail Storage
In another reminder of technology's quantum leaps, Yahoo Inc.'s free e-mail
service will provide unlimited storage space to its nearly 250 million users
worldwide -- a concept that seemed unfathomable just a few years ago.
With the move, Yahoo will trump its two largest rivals in free e-mail, Microsoft
Corp. and Google Inc., which currently provide 2 gigabytes and 2.8 gigabytes
of free storage, respectively.
Yahoo's e-mail users currently get 1 gigabyte of storage. Yahoo plans to gradually
lift all space constraints in May, but it will take several months before all
of Yahoo's e-mail users have infinite storage space.
Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, the fourth largest e-mail provider, began offering
unlimited storage for free last summer.
Yahoo's commitment will require substantially more resources because its e-mail
service is nearly five times larger than AOL's.
"We're psyched to be breaking new ground in the digital storage frontier
by giving our users the freedom to never worry about deleting old messages again,"
John Kremer, a Yahoo vice president of mail, wrote in an announcement posted
late Tuesday on the company's Web site.
The expansion represents a dramatic shift from Yahoo's e-mail philosophy just
three years ago. At that time, Yahoo was offering as little as 4 megabytes of
free storage and charging nearly $50 annually for 100 megabytes of storage.
But Google changed the competitive landscape in April 2004 with the introduction
of Gmail, which initially offered 1 gigabyte for free before steadily expanding
to its current limit of 2.8 gigabytes.
Yahoo and its rivals have been willing to spend millions of dollars on adding
storage space because they consider e-mail service a powerful magnet that spurs
frequent visits, and thus more opportunities to sell ads. And the cost of storage
has been declining for years, making it even easier to give users more space.
Meanwhile, e-mail's ubiquity and the proliferation of digital media -- from
photos to music -- has increased the demand for more storage.
When Yahoo began offering free e-mail 10 years ago, the capacity of the entire
service topped out at 200 gigabytes. It takes about 10 minutes for Yahoo's incoming
e-mail to devour 200 gigabytes of storage today, Kremer wrote.
Sunnyvale-based Yahoo said its offer of infinite storage is meant to celebrate
the 10th anniversary of its e-mail service. But the decision also comes a month
after Google posed a more serious threat to Yahoo by dropping the final remnants
of Gmail's invitation-only restrictions and opening up the service to all comers.
In February, Yahoo's e-mail attracted 243 million visitors with Microsoft in
second with 233 million visitors, according to market research firm comScore
Media Metrix. Gmail ranked third with 62 million visitors, a 68 percent increase
from the previous year, followed by AOL at 50 million, comScore said.
Yahoo's expansion will be largely irrelevant to many e-mail users who haven't
come close to approaching their current limit.
That's one reason why Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has no immediate plans
to match Yahoo's offer.
"Storage has not been a major issue or pain point for customers for years
now," Microsoft said Wednesday in a statement.
Mountain View-based Google has been adding about 145 megabytes of free storage
to each e-mail account annually -- a pace that would raise storage limits to
about 3.27 gigabytes in three years. The company has no current plans to change
that formula, Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne said Wednesday.
In an interview last month, Google co-founder Sergey Brin indicated the company
would probably begin charging a small fee for people who want even more e-mail