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Web Watch by Leslie Walker
Hotmail, Yahoo Step Up The Mailbox Rivalry

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_____Recent Columns_____
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By Leslie Walker
The Washington Post
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page F07

The Web mailbox wars escalated last week when Yahoo expanded its free e-mail accounts from 4 megabytes to 100 MB, and Microsoft confirmed that it, too, will raise storage limits soon on its free Hotmail accounts.

Both are reacting to Google's plan to offer 1 gigabyte of free storage with its new Gmail service, which is still in trial form with a limited number of users.

"What we are trying to do is take storage off the table as an issue," said Brad Garlinghouse, a Yahoo vice president.

Just a few months ago, Yahoo charged $60 a year for 100 MB of storage. Starting last Tuesday, that much storage comes free with every account (and the maximum size of any one attached file is now 10 MB instead of 3 MB). The company also consolidated its various extra-cost mail services into one $20-per-year plan, with no graphical ads and with a hefty 2 GB of mail storage.

That's twice what Google is planning. Yahoo said its paid version contains more features than Gmail, including tighter spam filtering and the ability to download messages with standard e-mail programs.

Yahoo also streamlined its mail service's interface and search features.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has quietly been expanding the storage it offers to at least some users of its free Hotmail service to 25 megabytes, up from the 2 that were available before. Users of these expanded accounts can buy still more room with two new "extra storage" plans: a $40-per-year service that includes 50 MB, and a $60-per-year option that allows 100 MB.

But other users continue to get only 2 MB of storage, and an "All About Hotmail" page at the site shows the old amount as well. A new account opened on Friday afternoon also was limited to 2 MB.

Microsoft spokeswoman Kathleen Callaghan said she had not heard of any free accounts getting more storage.

But she did confirm that the company has plans in the works to beef up Hotmail: "Part of that will ensure that storage won't be an issue," she said. And a Microsoft vice president, Yusuf Mehdi, said last week that users will see a ton of innovation from Hotmail and Microsoft's other communication services over the next year.

UPS and AuctionDrop Team Up on EBay

UPS has cut a deal with an eBay consignment service, AuctionDrop. People can drop off items they want sold on the Internet's biggest flea market at any UPS store and UPS will ship the item to AuctionDrop, which will then photograph and offer it for sale on eBay. Sellers pay no shipping costs and get the item back if it doesn't sell.

But if it does sell, AuctionDrop and eBay take a big bite out of the proceeds before the owner gets a check in the mail: AuctionDrop charges 38 percent of the first $200, or a minimum of $20, plus declining percentages on amounts over $200. EBay charges 5.25 percent of the first $25 and declining percentages for amounts over $25.

www.auctiondrop.com

Napster to Give Away Players to Sell Music

Roxio Inc.'s Napster online music store announced Wednesday it will give a portable music player valued at $130 to anyone who signs up for Napster's $119-a-year online music subscription service. The free Rio Chiba Sport MP3 player holds about 128 MB of music and comes with an armband and headphones.

www.napster.com

E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.


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