Lycos declared itself the victor in the race for space on Tuesday with the introduction of a 1GB e-mail service, although unlike a similar service planned by Google, this one comes at a fee.
Lycos Mail Personal GB is ad-free and comes with antispam and antivirus software for £3.49 a month, as well as a domain name so users can have an email address like PedroSanchez@PedroSanchez.com. The storage capacity of the offering comes in apparent response to Google's announcement earlier this year that it would be launching a free e-mail service with 1G byte of storage.
Google's announcement of Gmail, which is currently in beta, kicked off a trend of so-called space exploration among e-mail providers. Yahoo said last week that it would begin offering a service later this year with "virtually unlimited" storage that would rival Gmail's limit. But like Lycos' service, Yahoo's souped-up storage offering will also come at a price.
Both Lycos and Yahoo have said that money isn't all that matters when it comes to e-mail services as both providers have trumpeted the security and privacy features of their services in an apparent jab at concerns raised over Gmail.
Gmail is based on an advertising model whereby the company scans email messages and place ads that it deems relevant next to them. Although Google has worked to address privacy concerns over the scanning of messages, competitors seem not as eager to let these concerns pass.
"Our product is quite different than Google's... and we offer no advertising, no spyware and very high privacy," said Alex Kovach, vice president of Lycos Europe.
Kovach added that while there will always be free Web-based e-mail offerings, Lycos is serving up "e-mail for life" with premium services boasting a range of features and an address that never has to change.
But despite Lycos' stance that price doesn't matter and privacy concerns do, Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said that Google's Gmail still presents a powerful foe.
"At the end of the day Google is offering Gmail for free and unless you are bothered by the advertising that's a deal no one else has matched," Gartenberg said. He added that he doesn't believe Gmail poses any serious privacy concerns and doubts that its advertising model, which is no more obtrusive than the ads on Google's search service, will deter users.
"What is interesting is that providers are responding to a service that hasn't even been launched yet," Gartenberg said.
While Gartenberg doesn't predict that fee-based e-mail services with extra storage will steal that much of Gmail's market thunder, some users say they want what is currently available, now.
A Web-based e-mail user in the UK said that she would have no qualms about switching to Lycos and paying for the storage.
"It's not as much of a pain to switch e-mail addresses as everyone says," the user, who asked not to be named, said.
Paul Day, a Yahoo mail user who lives in Madrid, said that he would also have no problems switching to Lycos' 1G-byte service rather than waiting for Gmail or Yahoo's "virtually unlimited" offering.
"One of the disadvantages of Yahoo is in sending and receiving those larger files, and missing those important mails when the mail box is packed full," Day said. "1GB mail space? I'd switch in a second!"
In conjunction with launching its 1G-byte service Lycos also said that it is upgrading the storage capacities for its existing premium e-mail customers. The Lycos Mail Max service will be doubled from 50MB to 100MB , while Lycos Mail Personal will be bumped up to 1GB.
Kovach would not say how many premium mail users Lycos has, commenting that it was still "early days" since the company just started rolling out the services in February.
The Lycos Europe network covers 14 countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Great Britain.