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Google to launch free e-mail service

’Gmail’ will offer 1GB of storage

Google plans to use its search technology and a large amount of data storage to launch a free e-mail service that lets customers keep about 1G-byte of messages, the Internet search giant announced Wednesday.

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, the company said in a statement. They 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, Rosing said. Starting Thursday, 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.

Also starting today, the public will be able to learn more about Gmail at http://www.gmail.com, Rosing said.

One way Google will pay for the provisioning of that 1G-byte 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, Rosing said.

Gmail will have a built-in spam filter and a feature that lets customers report spam to help Google fine-tune the filter, said spokeswoman Eileen Rodriguez. Other antispam technologies will be added over time, she said.

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