Google will use its search technology and a large amount of data storage to launch a free e-mail service which allows customers keep about 1Gbyte of messages.
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The service, called Gmail, will let each user hold on to about 500,000 pages of e-mail and search through those messages using the familiar Google search interface.
Users will also be able to organise their messages in "conversations" that group a message together with all replies to it, much like internet newsgroups organise messages into threads, said Wayne Rosing, vice-president of engineering at Google.
A small number of Google employees have been testing the service for about a year. Other Google employees will be invited to participate and to invite some of their friends and relatives. The service should be generally available within "weeks or months", he said.
One way Google will pay for the provisioning of that 1Gbyte of storage per user will be by selling advertisements that will appear next to e-mail messages and be keyed to the content of each message.
Gmail will have a built-in spam filter and a feature that lets customers report spam to help Google fine-tune the filter. Other antispam technologies will be added over time.
The public can find out more at www.gmail.com.
Stephen Lawson writes for IDG News Service