Gmail prompts storage increases by rivals
is going through a huge change this year, as
providers race to stay ahead of the
much-anticipated launch of Google's free Gmail
will offer a massive 1-gigabyte inbox.
Established players are responding with big
increases in their free inboxes, while unknowns
are trying to make a name for themselves.
turmoil is very good news for free Web
e-mail users, who can escape the tiny confines
of 2- or 4-megabyte inboxes that can overflow
with just a few dozen messages. A gigabyte is
1,000 megabytes, enough room to store roughly
50,000 short, text-only messages.
there are also risks. There's no guarantee
free e-mail providers -- particularly the
smaller ones -- will endure, raising the
possibility of shutdowns that could block users
from stored messages. And none of the free
e-mail sites is giving users the tools they need
to manage huge inboxes -- at least, not yet.
Gmail is now in an invitation-only testing
process. It's not clear when the doors will
officially open or what features may be added
before then. But knowing that Gmail is coming
sooner or later, the rest of the industry has
moved quickly, including the two dominant
players: Yahoo! (http://mail.yahoo.com)
and Microsoft's Hotmail (www.hotmail.com).
June 15, Yahoo! increased the size of free
inboxes to 100 MB from 4 MB. For $19.99 a year,
the inbox can grow to an awesome 2 GB -- twice
the size of Gmail -- and users are spared the
annoying billboard-style ads that otherwise
plague Yahoo! and most free services.
June 25, Microsoft said it will expand
Hotmail's free inbox from 2 MB to 250 MB before
the end of the year. For $19.95 a year,
undercutting Yahoo! by all of 4 cents, users can
get 2 GB.
two small companies are already offering
free 1-gigabyte inboxes: Spymac (www.spymac.com)
started April 5, just four days after Google
revealed the existence of Gmail. Walla!
Communications (www.walla.com) became the second
entrant July 7.
preemptive strikes may not work. I spent
several days trying Spymac and Walla!; I've also
had an invitation-only Gmail test account.
Gmail, in short, blows them away. Unless Google
somehow manages to make the final product worse
than what it's previewing now, which seems
extremely unlikely, Gmail is definitely worth
Mail has a clean interface, with only a
single banner ad on each page, but lacks such
basic features as filters for sorting incoming
mail that have long been available in Yahoo! and
was unreliable for me. I got repeated error
messages when I tried to set up an account but
got through doing the exact same thing a day
later. Last week, I encountered more error
messages when trying to access my inbox -- an
outage that lasted for half a day.
all the services I've mentioned are hiding a
ticking time bomb: what to do when your gigantic
mailbox gets near to full. Even the biggest
inbox will fill up someday, at which point
you're blocked from receiving or sending more
needed are tools for managing bulk deletion,
such as features to erase all messages older
than a certain date or erase messages from
asked Google, Yahoo!, Hotmail, Walla! and Spymac
about this. They acknowledged the problem and
said they will implement solutions before most
people get anywhere near their limits.
so, because free Web e-mail is a valuable
service that's getting much better with the
arrival of Gmail.
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