updated 5/26/2005 12:08:53 PM ET 2005-05-26T16:08:53

Yahoo Inc. is testing an e-mail service that will let people share digital photos without the hassle of often cumbersome attachments that hog storage space and bandwidth.

The Sunnyvale-based company is touting the free service, available beginning Thursday at http://mail.yahoo.com, as a simple way to distribute photos to family and friends.

Thumbnails of up to 300 photos can be inserted into a single e-mail that can be sent to hundreds of recipients. Even if it contains 300 photos, an e-mail is unlikely to be rejected by inboxes with limitations on the size of a message because each thumbnail is just three to five kilobytes.

Yahoo designed the "PhotoMail" service so it can be opened and viewed no matter where an e-mail is addressed. All the photos inserted into the e-mails are stored on Yahoo computers, enabling recipients to see a full-resolution image by clicking on any thumbnail.

The photos can be inserted into an e-mail by dragging images stored on computer hard drives or Web sites. Using the test service requires a regular e-mail account. Installing a small piece of software also is required.

Besides introducing the photo service, Yahoo also is adding more protections against unwanted e-mail and supporting communications in six additional languages. With the expansion, Yahoo e-mail will be available in 21 languages.

Yahoo is counting on the photo service and other improvements to broaden its e-mail leadership over its two closest rivals, Microsoft Corp.'s Hotmail and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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