Microsoft Corp.s Internet division on Thursday started offering 250 MB of storage to new users of free Hotmail accounts in the United States and eight other countries. New accounts previously received 2MB of storage.
As for current Hotmail users, the majority has gained the added storage and the rest will be upgraded over the next few weeks, said Brooke Richardson, MSN lead product manager. Hotmail has about 187 million customers worldwide.
The added storage is the last major piece of an upgrade to Hotmail that MSN began in late June, Richardson said. Other additions announced Thursday were a photo-sharing feature and support for country-code domain names.
Hotmail is following a storage race among Web-based e-mail providers. Yahoo Inc. earlier this week increased its free mail storage to 250MB after an earlier boost to 100MB. Google Inc. started the trend when it launched its beta of Gmail with a gigabyte of free storage.
Some Hotmail users, though, have groused about how long it has taken MSN to complete the storage boost. MSN had e-mailed users about the added storage in the summer, but converted paying customers for its premium service first. Premium users receive 2GB of storage.
As one Hotmail customer wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK.com, "My Yahoo account upped my storage within a month. Hotmail sent a notice of upgrade months ago and has since only sent notices of how convenient a premium account would be."
Richardson acknowledged that the storage upgrade for free accounts took longer than MSN anticipated, though the company originally said it would complete the upgrade in the fall.
"We could have been better at setting expectations with customers about the rollout," Richardson said. "It has been a huge undertaking for us, and we have a huge customer base and a lot of storage to bring online."
New Hotmail users will get the storage in two steps. They first will receive 25MB of e-mail storage as MSN verifies that the accounts are for legitimate senders of e-mail and not spammers, Richardson said. After 30 days, they will gain the full 250MB of storage.
The increased storage also comes with an increase in the maximum attachment size to 10MB for free accounts.
A new photo-sharing feature in Hotmail lets users browse thumbnails of digital images and include multiple photos in an e-mail with one click, Richardson said. The feature also compressed the image files.
Users in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan now can use country-specific domain names for Hotmail accounts. So, rather than having an address at "hotmail.com," a U.K. customer could use "hotmail.co.uk" as an address.
Hotmail is taking another step toward implementing Sender ID, an e-mail authentication method Microsoft is backing. Hotmail will begin supporting Sender ID in its server architecture over the course of this week as it can test the specification.
Richardson said Hotmail users would not yet gain verification of the identity of e-mail senders. Hotmail is still working on how to implement it for users.