SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc. said on Wednesday it will soon begin giving users of its free Web e-mail service 1 gigabyte of storage, four times more than it now offers, amid intense competition.
Consumers are increasingly using their Web e-mail inboxes as a repository for e-mail as well as digital photos and documents. Web e-mail providers have been responding with offers of ever more free storage.
Yahoo, which Nielsen/NetRatings said in February boasted the most unique users among e-mail providers in the United States ahead of Time Warner Inc.'s Corp.'s MSN Hotmail, said the global storage upgrade will begin in late April and take about two weeks to complete.
The Internet media company also said it is beefing up antivirus protection for free e-mail users, giving them the ability to remove viruses from attachments -- a feature that had only been available to paying users.
Yahoo Mail is available in 15 languages in almost two dozen countries around the world.
Google Inc. last spring was the first email provider to offer 1 gigabyte of free storage to users of its invitation-only test Gmail service, setting off me-too moves from rivals.
Gmail, a distant fourth in the rankings of top e-mail destinations, is now available only as an English-language service.
Microsoft currently limits free storage on its free MSN Hotmail accounts to 250 megabytes.
Yahoo and Microsoft each offer 2 gigabytes of storage to users who pay about $20 per year for the service.
Yahoo shares edged up 10 cents to $31.08 on Nasdaq early Wednesday afternoon.
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