Twice as much and still for free?

It's no April Fools Day hoax. Internet search titan Google continues to make the running in the free email sector after Yahoo last week quadrupled the storage capacity of its mail service from 250mb to match Google's one gigabyte.

Today (Friday) Google responded by going one - or rather two - better, doubling the capacity of its Gmail service to two gigabytes forthwith. Furthermore, it will continue to add capacity progressively over the coming months.

Most email services offer around 10mb of storage or less.

Unlike most product managers, Gmail's Georges Harik is prone to understatement: "We think this will have a pretty big effect on people's attitudes about how [web email] should be done," he said.

Few will disagree with that assessment, although it is not known how many internet users will benefit from Google's apparent largesse. The company is zip-lipped as to the number of users, whose number is currently limited by an invitation-only recruitment policy.

Harik, however, claims that users are already counted in their millions and denies that today's upgrade is driven by competition from Yahoo. Rather, he insists, it was prompted by complaints from users that they were running out of space.

The backbone of Gmail is a powerful search engine that quickly finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again.

When Gmail displays an email, it automatically shows all the replies to that email as well, so users can view a message in the context of a conversation. There are no pop-ups or untargeted banner ads in Gmail, which places relevant text ads and links to related web pages adjacent to email messages.

Google remains coy as to when the service will be extended to all comers, insisting it is still at beta-testing stage.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff