updated 11/15/2004 12:50:14 AM ET 2004-11-15T05:50:14

Yahoo Inc. is more than doubling its limits on free e-mail storage in its latest move to combat two of its biggest rivals, Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

E-mail accountholders will get up to 250 megabytes of free storage effective Monday, up from 100 megabytes previously offered by Sunnyvale-based Yahoo. The change follows Microsoft’s recent decision to boost the free storage on its Hotmail service to 250 megabytes per account. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Both Yahoo and Hotmail have dramatically increased their storage limits since Google rolled out its free e-mail service offering in April. The Google service, called Gmail, offers each accountholder up to 1,000 megabytes of e-mail storage.

Yahoo, which runs the world’s most popular Web site, is hoping the improvements will retain its current e-mail users and perhaps lure converts from other services.

Unlike Yahoo’s e-mail service and Hotmail, Gmail remains in a test mode and is available only through invitations from Google or existing accountholders.

“Gmail is an interesting competitor,” said Brad Garlinghouse, Yahoo’s vice president of communications products. “It really has raised the game for everyone, and that’s good for consumers.”

Besides increasing storage limits, Yahoo says it has upgraded the tools for verifying the identities of e-mailers and improved the features used to search e-mail content.

Yahoo promotes itself as the largest provider of free e-mail, with tens of millions of users. The company declined to offer precise numbers.

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