Hotmail POP mail users will have to pay

Users of Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Hotmail service will no longer be able to aggregate e-mail from other accounts into their Hotmail account without paying US$19.95 a year for the MSN Extra Storage subscription program, the company said.

The move was recently detailed in a mass e-mail sent to users of Hotmail's POP (Post Office Protocol) Mail Retrieval service. POP is the standard for sending e-mail from an Internet server which allows users to forward and receive e-mail from different accounts.

The free service will be discontinued as of July 16. Hotmail users who wish to continue using POP Mail Retrieval will have to sign up for Microsoft's MSN Extra Storage program which offers users 10M bytes of storage, 30M bytes of Communities storage, the ability to send larger attachments and exemption for the service's account expiration policy.

Microsoft's decision to discontinue its free POP mail service comes on the heels of a similar decision by Yahoo Inc., which ended its free Yahoo Mail POP3 access and e-mail forwarding features earlier this year.

Amid a continued downturn in the online advertising market, the two companies have been looking for ways to move users from free to fee services. Both Microsoft and Yahoo have long offered extra e-mail storage capabilities for a fee, but POP users didn't bite at the opportunity to buy storage given that users can save e-mail on their computers and not in their Hotmail or Yahoo mailboxes.