Ask Jeeves increases in-box size for Excite

Email in-box capacity increasing to 125MB

Ask Jeeves Inc. will follow the trend among providers of free Web-based e-mail service of boosting in-box capacity, by increasing storage to 125MB for the e-mail services it offers from its My Way, Excite and iWon Web portals, the company is announcing Thursday.

At the same time, Ask Jeeves will swim against the current in the search engine space with its decision to no longer let companies pay a fee to have their Web sites included in the Ask Jeeves search index.

In the e-mail space, the move will increase in-box capacity from 6M bytes on iWon and My Way and from 3MB on Excite, said Scott Garell, the company's executive vice president of sites and search. "We've shown success in building (Internet services) that meet user needs, and this is another step in that direction," Garell said.

Ask Jeeves, which operates its search engine at www.ask.com, acquired in May the My Way (www.myway.com), Excite (www.excite.com) and iWon (www.iwon.com) portals when it closed its acquisition of Interactive Search Holdings.

Also getting upgraded is Excite's fee-based e-mail service Excite Gold, which offered a 10MB in-box for $19.99 per year and a 25M-byte in-box for $24.99 per year. Now, Excite Gold members will get a 2GB in-box for $19.99 per year, Garell said.

Ask Jeeves expects to roll out these enhancements to its free and fee-based e-mail services before the end of September, he said. These portals are overwhelmingly geared at U.S. audiences, so the users in question are almost all based in the U.S., he said. Also planned is the provision of antivirus protection for its e-mail users, a feature the Ask Jeeves services now lack, he said. The company does offer antispam filtering, he said.

The trend to increase in-box capacity began with Google Inc.'s announcement in April that it planned to offer a free, Web-based e-mail service with a 1G-byte in-box. Although that service, called Gmail, is still being tested, competitors such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have reacted.

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced plans to boost in-box capacity in its free Hotmail service from 2MB to 250MB, and to launch a $19.95 per year service with 2GB of in-box capacity. Yahoo last week announced plans to increase the size of its free service in-boxes from 4MB to 100MB, and to offer a $19.99 per year service featuring a 2GB in-box.

Meanwhile, Ask Jeeves on Thursday will also announce its intention to eliminate its Site Submit service, through which Web site owners can pay to ensure that their Web sites are in the Ask Jeeves search index, said Jim Lanzone, Ask Jeeves' senior vice president of search properties. "With that, we will be completely out of the paid inclusion business," Lanzone said. The program will be eliminated in a phased approach and it should be shut down by the end of the third quarter, he said.

As Ask Jeeves has continued to improve its search engine, it has decided it no longer needs Web site owners to proactively request their sites to be included in its index, he said. Basically, Ask Jeeves feels confident it will find all Web sites that should be indexed on its own, Lazone said.

If a company wants to be featured in Ask Jeeves, it can buy an ad in the company's sponsored results program, which serves up ads based on a user's search. For example, if a user searches for "basketball," Ask Jeeves will serve up ads that are consistent with that keyword.

The discontinuation of the Site Submit program will have little effect on Ask Jeeves' revenue, most of which comes from advertising, Lanzone said. Back in March, Ask Jeeves canceled a paid inclusion program that allowed companies to pay to have hard-to-index information on their Web sites updated frequently and included in the Ask Jeeves search engine index. That program, called Index Express, was designed for companies whose Web sites have a lot of so-called dynamic content that is hard for Web crawlers to index.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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