Tuesday, June 15, 2004

More mail, less news

The New York Times reports that Yahoo is substantially expanding the storage it offers for email users. As you might guess, this is in response to Gmail. They're offering only 100 MB for free, though, compared to Google's 1 GB. On the other hand, paid storage has expanded to 2 GB. Current users of the paid service can decide whether they want the larger mailboxes. If not, they can opt for a refund, which seems very fair.

As a business strategy, I don't know how much sense it makes. Perhaps the additional cost of storage won't affect Yahoo, but I'd be willing to bet that a large fraction of their users won't use anything close to 100 MB. I've never filled up even my 4 MB worth of space, so it's not going to make the slightest difference to me. If they want to keep customers loyal, perhaps they should try more innovative strategies, like conversations from Gmail. Still, I'm not complaining!

Also, CNN is carrying an article on Web registration for newspapers. (Yes, I know the New York Times story linked to above requires registration. So register! It's worth it. That goes for you too, Arun!) The story compares registering online to handing over your name, address, age and income to the cashier at a corner newsstand when you pick up the morning newspaper. Many users turn away because they can't be bothered to take a minute to fill out a form. Others are concerned about entering private information and some of them get around this by masquerading as 110-year old surgeons from Bulgaria called Mickey Mouse. Newspapers report that about 15% of the email addresses in their databases are false. Assuming that some of them require a valid email address to register, people are probably faking some of the other information. Worries about spam are another thing, but I've never received any mail from a newspaper. My New York Times subscription is almost a year old now.

It's kind of sad that people feel the need to falsify data. If demographic information helps the newspaper do a better job, I'm all for it. Maybe they'll make more money from advertising, and provide better services for free. And that's a powerful argument against the fairness of the newsstand analogy. If you could give them your name and address once, and get the newspaper for free every day, wouldn't you? Besides, you probably gave them that information when you subscribed, anyway. It's ridiculous for online privacy to mean more than offline privacy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aw man! I even looked up NY Times on BugMeNot, and then NY Times went right ahead and didn't ask me for registration information. :)

Actually, it's a matter of trust. I trust Slashdot and Ars Technica with the few details they ask for. I don't feel comfortable enough giving NY Times these details. Put it down to paranoia. I'm working on making the tightest iptables possible nowadays. :)

That, and SELinux, and TripWire, a couple of nift rootkit checkers to be run daily, and so forth.