Microsoft Corp., the world's largest software maker, has expanded its flagship MSN Hotmail Internet e-mail service to include European and Japanese domain names, it said on Friday.
Microsoft said people signing up for new email accounts in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan would get a country-specific email address.
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"If you live in the UK, instead of getting an email address @hotmail.com, you'll be able to get one @hotmail.co.uk," Microsoft Vice President Brian Arbogast said in a statement on Microsoft's website.
Until now, all Hotmail addresses have been of the form firstname.lastname@example.org. As the largest Internet email service with 187 million users it has become difficult for people to register a Hotmail email name that is both unique and meaningful.
"The new domains will allow for Hotmail customers to more easily find desirable email names within their country," Arbogast added.
Competition in the web email market has become intense, with search provider Google Inc. launching its Gmail service with 1 gigabyte of free storage, forcing both Yahoo and Microsoft to boost the capacity of their own email offerings.
Microsoft says it will be increasing free storage for email accounts to 250 MB for new Hotmail customers in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain and Britain. More storage is available for a fee.