Google will use its search technology and a large amount of data storage to launch a free e-mail service, the company says.
The service will allow customers to keep about 1GB of messages, the Internet search giant says.
The service, called Gmail, will let each user hold on to about 500,000 pages of e-mail and search through those messages using the familiar Google search interface, the company says in a statement.
Users will also be able to organize their messages in "conversations" that group a message together with all replies to it, much like Internet newsgroups organize messages into threads, says Wayne Rosing, vice president of engineering at Google, in Mountain View, California.
Put to the Test
A small number of Google employees have been testing the service for about a year, Rosing says. Starting Thursday, other Google employees will be invited to participate and to invite some of their friends and relatives. The service should be generally available within "weeks or months," he says.
Also starting Thursday, the public will be able to learn more about Gmail at Gmail.com, Rosing says.
One way Google will pay for the provisioning of that 1GB of storage per user will be by selling advertisements that will appear next to e-mail messages and be keyed to the content of each message, Rosing says.
Gmail will have a built-in spam filter and a feature that lets customers report spam to help Google fine-tune the filter, says spokesperson Eileen Rodriguez. Other antispam technologies will be added over time, she says.