Film / TV



Google to offer free email

Michael Liedtke April 1, 2004

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California — Search engine Google Inc. announced it would launch a free, Web-based e-mail service to compete against popular services from rivals Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Google's service, called "Gmail," will include a built-in search function that will let people search every e-mail they've ever sent or received.

According to company executives, users will be able to type in keywords to sort e-mails or find old missives. And it will come with 1 gigabyte of free storage - more than 100 times what some popular rivals offer and enough to hold 500,000 pages of e-mail.

But to finance the service, Google will display advertising links tied to the topics discussed within the e-mails. For instance, an e-mail inquiring about an upcoming concert might include an ad from a ticket agency.

For now, Google is only opening up the service to invited users but expects to make it accessible to everyone within a few weeks, Google co-founder Larry Page said Wednesday in an interview.

Officials at Yahoo and Microsoft's Hotmail division declined to comment on Google's entry into a new category.

But analysts said that Google - whose technology is behind nearly four out of every five Web searches - could shake up the free e-mail market, which includes Yahoo and Microsoft's Hotmail.

Industry analyst David Ferris said Gmail is a logical extension of the world's most popular search engine. But he said Google may run into trouble if it tries to charge for e-mail eventually.

The company would not provide details of its pricing strategy, but rivals have kept stripped versions of e-mail free and asked users to pay annual fees up to $30 or more for extra storage and spam protection.

"I know that companies offering free e-mail are very frustrated because the consumer expects it will stay free - they simply will not pay any money for them," said Ferris, president of San Francisco-based Ferris Research. "Although there's a clear tendency for these free services to offer for-fee extensions, users are very resistant to taking them up. The level of adoption is very disappointing." –Sapa-AP

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