Bangalore: In an attempt to retain users, Internet giant Yahoo Inc. will offer unlimited storage to its free webmail users from May.
The company’s move follows a trend set by Indian Internet companies such as Rediff India and Sify Ltd that have increased email box sizes to store any number of text, audio and video files.
Sify, the Chennai-based Internet company, began offering unlimited storage capacity in January 2006, while Rediff followed suit early this month.
The decade-old Yahoo mail currently offers a capacity of 2 gigabytes (GB), roughly equivalent to a storage space for around 2,000 songs, which it introduced in 2005, after its bigger rival Google introduced its free search-based email on invitation with a 1 GB capacity. Gmail, as Google’s email service is popularly known, currently offers a 2.8 GB capacity.
“It is amazing in this case, the trend was set up by an Indian company,” said Subho Ray, president of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a trade body based in Mumbai that tracks Internet usage in the country.
Analysts said Internet companies use infinite storage capacity as one of the tools to retain users on their networks, by passing on the cost savings due to the relatively stable prices of storage products that have more capacity.
“Disc prices have relatively been the same and new products allow email service providers to apportion the same amount of space to multiple users,” said Atul Sood, regional director, Hitachi Data Systems India Ltd, a data storage product vendor.
Going forward, unlimited storage will soon lose its edge as a carrot to attract customers, experts said.
“Unlimited storage does not necessarily mean that users will store more information on their mails. They will continue with their practice of downloading big attachments on their desktops rather than surfing for it on their mail box,” said Arun Rajamani, head of consumer channels for Sify. “Storage is not the main attraction, but one among many.”
Yahoo’s rival Google agreed. “It is just not storage. Storage does not make a great email. The user interface, search and spam-fighting capabilities all add up to make it one,” said Jason Cook, product marketing manager for Gmail at Google’s offices in London. He did not comment on Yahoo mail’s latest offering.
Yahoo India director for communications and community products I.M. Swaminathan said the approximate usage of space among Yahoo mail users is between 100 megabytes and 150 megabytes, which is less than a 10th of the current space it offers.
Nearly 88% of the 13.5 million email users in India are with Yahoo, the company said quoting a study by ComScore, an agency that measures Internet audience usage.
Sify, with an email user base of 1.3 million—85% of them in India—is focused on driving more users online through local language email access. Registered users at Rediff were 50.66 million in December, but details of the breakdown of its email users was not immediately available.
India’s Internet user base is expected to touch more than 50 million by March from 37 million in September 2006, predicts IAMAI.
Yahoo India expects the country’s online advertising market to touch $90 million (Rs387 crore) in 2007, nearly double the $50 million in 2006.