Google Inc., the world’s largest Internet company, has introduced charges for users of its webmail service “Gmail” if they exceed 2.8 gigabytes (GB) of storage, roughly equivalent to space that can hold 800 audio songs, bucking the trend of unlimited email storage increasingly offered by Internet portals to attract and retain email users.
Google launched its free search based email in 2004 with 1GB capacity, several multiples of storage space in the webmail offered then by rivals such as Yahoo Inc.’s Yahoo mail and Hotmail, owned by Microsoft Corp.
“In the case of online storage, whether it’s a picture, a video or an email, you should just, well, be able to store it without having to worry about whether you've got enough space in each particular product,” said Ryan Aquino, Software QA Engineer Lead, Picasa Web Albums, in a post on the official Google blog last week, announcing the new pricing for extra storage.
Until then, users of Gmail had to delete or move emails when they bumped up against the 2.8GB limit on their accounts.
Google has different slabs—$20 or about Rs814 for 6GB space to $50 for 250GB additional spaces that will be integrated with its other services such as Picasa, the web-based photo album that can be shared among a community. The memory will be dynamically shared between the user’s Gmail and Picassa accounts. Picasa users have a storage limit of 1GB now.
Analysts, surprised by the Google move to charge for additional storage space, predicted users shifting allegiance from Gmail to other mail providers.
“There is no ‘unique and killer’ advantage that Gmail provides which others do not have. I also do not envisage a scenario where other major webmail providers following suit,” said Mohan Krishnan, senior vice-president and country manager, IMRB International, the market research agency.
“Google is taking a broad approach to storage by extending it across multiple products; after all, we want people to be able to live more of their lives in the cloud, where their data is available to them anytime, from any PC (personal computer),” said Jason Freidenfelds, a spokesperson for Google in Mountain View, California, where the company is based. “Eventually, we hope users can have one place to store their information—in whatever form— online,” he said. Freidenfelds did not respond to an email query whether the paid service would be introduced in India for Gmail, which has tens of millions of users globally.
Yahoo India director for communication and community products, I.M. Swaminathan had said in April that the approximate usage of space in among Yahoo mail users is between 100 and 150 megabytes. A spokesperson for Yahoo did not comment on Gmail’s new storage tariff.
“I think that some small businesses are using Google mail ID for their interactions. There can’t be any other reason (for Google to introduce charges for enhanced storage),” said an executive of an Indian Internet company, who did not want to be named.
Internet companies use infinite storage capacity as one of the tools to retain users on their network, by passing on the cost savings due to the relatively stable prices of storage products that have more capacity. “On an average, people use around 5% or 10% of the capacity,” said the executive of the Indian company.
“Unlike mobile phone numbers, email IDs have very little exit barriers. People will easily shift allegiance. Some customers who are addicted to Gmail may try and remain by deleting mails to keep within 2.8GB limit, but will definitely start a second account,” said Krishnan of IMRB International.