Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yahoo Mail Offers 'Infinite' Storage for 10-year Anniversary

Yahoo Mail reportedly will start to offer unlimited storage as it reaches its 10th anniversary in May. On one of the company's blogs, John Kremer, the vice president of Yahoo Mail, wrote:

"I’m the lucky one who gets to announce that we will begin offering everyone unlimited email storage starting in May 2007."

Google Inc., Yahoo's archrival, rolled out its Gmail service several years ago with an initial capacity of 1G byte per user. That capacity has steadily expanded over time and now exceeds 2.5G bytes. Yahoo Mail, which launched in 1997 with 4MB of storage, upgraded to 100MB of storage shortly after Google's Gmail announcement, bumped it up to 250MB in late 2004, and then up to 1GB in 2005. Windows Live Mail offers 2 Gbytes of storage. MSN Hotmail offers 1 Gbyte for its free plan.

Dave Nakayama, the developer of RocketMail, which Yahoo acquired, is quoted by Kremer as saying: “I remember getting in a room to plan our RocketMail launch over a decade ago and worrying that our original plan of a 2MB quota wasn’t enough, and that we needed to be radical and DOUBLE the storage to 4MB per account! It’s ironic that I routinely send and receive individual mail attachments bigger than that now. Our total capacity for mail accounts back then was 200GB for all of our customers. At Yahoo!, we’re now receiving more inbound mail than that every 10 minutes.”

Yahoo Mail is the largest web mail service in the world, with approximately 250 million users, according to comScore Media Metrix. Next is Microsoft's version and then Gmail comes in third.

Kramer further cautions: "like any responsible webmail service, we have anti-abuse limits in place to protect our users," but doesn't give any details. A Yahoo spokesperson contacted by InformationWeek also declined to elaborate.

"We do have controls in place to ensure that people benefit from the unlimited storage feature, but are not able to abuse the system," the Yahoo spokesperson said to IW in an e-mail. "Our anti-abuse limits are there to monitor suspicious activity and to ensure our users have a safe, efficient and reliable Web mail experience. As always, we will require users to abide by the Yahoo Terms of Service. I do not have any other details to share with you at this time."

It's hard to say how the current capacity meter at Yahoo Mail will measure a percent of infinity, so that's probably going to go. Which also makes you wonder when that beta interface is going to reach final development. It's been around since September 2005. Maybe they waited to mark their 10th anniversary with that, too.

Premium users, like me, who now receive 2GB storage and other benefits (such as POP access) for an annual fee of $19.95, won't receive a refund when everyone gets unlimited space. "This does not change our premium e-mail strategy. People upgrade to our premium product for many reasons, with storage being just one of them." I have to agree, the only reason I pay the 20 bucks is so that I can get by e-mail through a POP client.

All things being equal, I can hardly see why Yahoo's announcement would be a big deal. I don't need INFINITE storage. I just need a large enough storage so it doesn't restrict my e-mail activity. There's no such thing as infinite storage, anyway. A real useful feature would have been something like their premium features: anti-spam aliases, POP access, etc.

"Sounds like a future without limits. Beats a slice of birthday cake, eh?" Actually, no, and no.


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