Lycos Revamps Free Web Mail Service

Lycos is revamping its free Web mail service, vastly increasing storage space and lifting the size limit on file attachments, the Waltham, Mass., online services provider plans to announce on Wednesday.

Lycos Mail will now offer its subscribers 3GB of storage, up from just 5MB, and will allow them to send file attachments of any size, said Brian Kalinowski, Lycos’ chief operating officer.

With these improvements, Lycos wants to meet increasing demand for exchanging large media files, like photos, video clips and songs via e-mail, he said.

Web mail is a key offering for portals like Lycos because users form strong attachments to their e-mail accounts, which keeps them coming back and using other online services. Lycos, a pioneer Web portal, is focusing its comeback attempts on broadband entertainment content. It ranked as the 24th most popular website network in the United States in May with almost 24 million unique visitors, according to comScore Networks. Yahoo ranked first with almost 129 million unique visitors.

Lycos has been migrating its Lycos Mail members to the new system, which it is adopting from its South Korean parent company, Daum Communications. Changes to the user interface will be minor, so the migration should be fairly transparent to users, he said. A user-interface upgrade with Ajax functionality is planned for later, he said.

Lycos hopes the upgrade will significantly increase the Lycos Mail user base of about 1 million by attracting new users like teenagers looking for their first Web mail account, he said. In other words, Lycos is hoping to lure "members of the iPod generation" and not so much someone who has been using a competing Web mail service for 10 years, he said.

Lycos Mail is free but contains ads, and its accounts are deleted if they aren’t checked at least once every 30 days. For US$5.95 per year, members can upgrade the account so that it’s preserved even if it isn’t checked once a month. Another upgrade option exists for $19.95 per year, which removes graphical ads and increases the storage to 5GB. All versions of Lycos Mail offer virus scanning, but none offers virus cleaning.

By comparison, Yahoo’s Yahoo Mail offers, in its ad-supported free version, 1GB of storage and a 10MB limit on attachments, with virus scanning and cleaning. Its fee-based version features no graphical ads, costs $19.99 per year and has 2GB of storage and a 20MB limit on attachments.

Meanwhile, the ad-supported free version of Microsoft’s Hotmail features 250MB of storage with a maximum attachment size of 10MB, and virus scanning and cleaning. For $19.95 per year, graphical ads are removed, and Hotmail storage is increased to 2GB and attachment size to 20MB.

Then there’s Google’s Gmail, whose introduction in April 2004 shook up the then-morose Web mail market and sparked a wave of upgrades among competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft. Gmail, which is free and supported by text ads, offers a continually increasing storage that now tops 2.5GB, and a 10MB attachment limit. It also features POP3 support, which Lycos, Yahoo and Microsoft include only in fee-based versions of their services. Gmail also scans for and cleans viruses.

-Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service (Miami Bureau)

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