Yahoo has expanded capacity and significantly upgraded the performance of its email system, making it a viable alternative to Google's Gmail service.
"We're really focused on greater ease of use," said Brad Garlinghouse, VP of Communications Products at Yahoo.
Users of Yahoo's free email service now have 100 megabytes of free storage, expanded from 4 to 6 megabytes previously. Maximum message size has been increased to 10 megabytes, allowing users to send much larger attachments, including photos and multimedia files.
Yahoo is also consolidating all of its premium email services into a single program, called Mail Plus, offering 2 gigabytes of capacity for an annual fee of $19.99. Current subscribers to any of Yahoo's premium email packages are automatically upgraded to the new Mail Plus service.
Yahoo has also improved the back end of the mail system, putting a greater emphasis on search and dramatically improving system performance.
The email team worked closely with the Yahoo Search Technology team on the new release. "That's given us a very rich tool set to enable best of breed technologies from the search unit and integrate it into the back end of Yahoo mail," said Garlinghouse.
Yahoo Mail vs. Gmail
When Google announced its Gmail service on April 1st, it set a new standard for capacity, offering a full gigabyte of storage for each user. Gmail was designed as a search-centric system -- by offering so much storage, Google encouraged users to simply store all messages and search to find them, rather than using a traditional folder based filing system.
Many other web-based email services announced similar capacity enhancements, but did little to improve the searchability of email.
Yahoo's upgrade puts its email system on a par with Gmail. Although the 100 megabyte free account is less than Gmail's 1 gigabyte limit, Yahoo does not count spam or trash messages toward the total.
In addition, Yahoo has removed advertising from messages in Mail Plus accounts, and has no plans to serve contextually based text advertisements at all, according to Garlinghouse. Gmail messages sometimes include contextually based text ads based on a machine scan of the contents of your email.
The primary difference between Gmail and Yahoo mail is that Gmail has threaded messages, allowing you to see all exchanges of a particular subject grouped together. Gmail also occasionally returns web search results based on a contextual scan of the content of your mail.
If you're still pining away for a Gmail account, Yahoo's revamped email service is an excellent alternative. Garlinghouse says that the company plans to continue enhancing the service throughout the year.
Yahoo is also releasing "tens of millions" of dormant or unused user names today, allowing you to sign up for a more meaningful user name than in the past.
Yahoo does require more personal information than Google on its registration form for email, but registration also provides you access to other Yahoo services, such as the excellent My Yahoo personalized service, Yahoo photos and Yahoo Messenger.Sound Off
Is Yahoo's move to bolster its email just another round of one-upsmanship between the search giants? Will you go with Yahoo mail rather than wait for Gmail? Join the Yahoo Upgrades Email In Space & Speed discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums, and cast your vote in the search engine email poll.
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