Google takes on Microsoft with rival free e-mail

Google, the dominant online search engine, is to offer a free e-mail service that it promises will block spam as it steps up the battle with its internet rivals Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Offering up to 500 times more storage capacity than Hotmail, the service, called Gmail, could be available within weeks.

Larry Page, co-founder of the company, said users will be able to search their retained e-mail using Google's technology just as they now do for web pages, and the service will be kept free by including text-based adverts related to the content of the e-mails, just as the present search engine does.

The move intensifies the battle for internet users' hearts, eyes and typing fingers by three companies which have become dominant online - Google, used for 80 per cent of online searching, Yahoo!, the most widely used "portal" for news and e-mail, and Microsoft's Hotmail, the biggest free e-mail service.

Microsoft has recently announced plans to build internet searching, performed using its own MSN search engine, into future versions of its dominant Windows operating system. Yahoo! has also stepped up its efforts to challenge Google, dumping it from its own search service and buying an online shopping comparison site with which to lure surfers.

But Google's vast free e-mail offering, allied with its growing range of services - which now includes searching of web pages, news, images and, in the US, a shopping comparison site called Froogle - could work together with its strong brand to pull people away from Hotmail and Yahoo!, which have both had to limit the amount of free storage that they offer to users. "Google is going after Bill Gates," said Hellen Omwando, a consumer analyst at Forrester Research. "E-mail is the number one activity on the Net: when people come online, the first thing they want to do is send e-mail. This will definitely siphon people off from MSN's Hotmail, Yahoo! and AOL."

Rivals were cautious not to dismiss the challenge too soon, having seen how Google - which is still privately owned, and only arrived on the Web in 1998 - has grown to dominate online searching.

Will Collins, Hotmail manager at MSN UK, said: "It will be interesting to see how Google's trial develops and what they ultimately will deliver broadly to consumers. We are focused on ensuring that our 170 million active MSN Hotmail customers are increasingly satisfied with the world's largest web-based e-mail service."

In the past few years Hotmail and Yahoo! have both had to limit the amount of free storage that they offer users - Hotmail to 2 megabytes, and Yahoo! to 4Mb. Larger storage is only available with annual payments: Yahoo! charges $100 for 100Mb storage. Google's offering will let people receive single e-mails that are 10Mb in size, and put virtually their entire e-mail history online.

Kate Burns, head of Google UK's advertising sales, said: "I've used both the Microsoft and Yahoo! free mail products, but I've have had to delete old e-mails, or I've come back and found all my e-mails are gone.

"We believe that the user should have the ability to store all their e-mail."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk