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AOL Jumps Into Free E-Mail Business ! - 5/11/2005 8:01:29 AM   
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Its subscription business in decline, America Online Inc. is launching yet another product on the open Web: a free, ad-supported e-mail service tied to its instant-messaging platform.

Users of AOL Instant Messenger will be able to send and receive mail with "aim.com" addresses using their existing AIM screen names.

Initially, users will need the latest version of AIM software, available as a "beta" test download for Windows computers beginning Wednesday. Ultimately, they'll be able to send and receive mail from any Web browser.

Each account comes with 2 gigabytes of storage — comparable with Google Inc.'s Gmail and more generous than the free offerings from Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail and even AOL's flagship subscription service.

And unlike AOL's main accounts, which keep new messages for 27 days and messages already read for up to a week unless users actively save them, AIM mail never expires.

AIM mail will also incorporate a few features unique to AOL until now: The ability to check whether AOL and AIM recipients have opened a message and to delete an unopened message from the recipients' inbox (This won't work with e-mail sent to users of other services).

The Web-based interface will also have drag-and-drop capabilities, allowing users to sort mail without having to check multiple boxes and hit a "move" button.

"It's not clear what the demand is for yet another free e-mail product, but this is certainly a very competitive offering," Jupiter Research analyst David Card said.
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