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.