AOL Takes on Rivals with Free Web Mail

America Online is currently beta testing a refresh of AOL Mail on the Web in preparation for a rollout of its own free Web mail service to the masses early next year. The Mail on the Web beta went live late Wednesday with a new user interface and several performance enhancements.

The new Web mail service features rich text, drag and drop capabilities between folders and automatically refreshes the inbox so users can view new mail in real time. Eventually, AOL will make the service presence aware with AOL Instant Messenger Integration.

At present, AOL Mail on the Web is only available to AOL subscribers and limits storage to 100MB per screen name. Competitors MSN and Google offer 250MB and 1GB, respectively.

Ultimately, AOL's goal is to ramp up its portal strategy. The portal site has undergone a planned redesign that introduced content feeds placed prominently alongside Internet search and links to popular destinations.

Recently, AOL debuted Search Snapshots, a new video service, as well as its SingingFish media search engine to a wider Internet audience outside of its walled garden of subscribers.

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