As Yahoo! Mail approaches its 10-year anniversary, I’m the lucky one who gets to announce that we will begin offering everyone unlimited email storage starting in May 2007. To mark the occasion, I checked in with David Nakayama, our group vice president of engineering, for some perspective on this milestone. In case that name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the developer of RocketMail, one of the world’s first webmail products, which Yahoo! acquired and relaunched as Yahoo! Mail in 1997.Dave reminisced: “I remember getting in a room to plan our RocketMail launch over a decade ago and worrying that our original plan of a 2MB quota wasn’t enough, and that we needed to be radical and DOUBLE the storage to 4MB per account! It’s ironic that I routinely send and receive individual mail attachments bigger than that now. Our total capacity for mail accounts back then was 200GB for all of our customers. At Yahoo!, we’re now receiving more inbound mail than that every 10 minutes.”

When Yahoo! Mail launched 10 years ago, users got a whopping 4MB of storage for their entire mailbox. Today, you would fill that up with a single picture from your weekend.

This got me thinking about how the storage capacity of other popular technology products has changed. A quick snapshot:

1997: Yahoo! Mail launches with 4MB of storage

  • SanDisk introduces 2MB flash card for the Canon PowerShot.
  • Compaq announces “high capacity memory upgrades” in four capacities, including 16MB, 32MB, 64MB and 128MB capacities.
  • Caleb introduces the Ultra High Density floppy disk drive that stores up to 144MB on a single disk.
  • The first iPod is still a gleam in someone’s eye. It’s not introduced until 2001 and comes with 5GB of storage.

2004/2005: Yahoo! Mail upgrades in 2004 to 100MB of storage, followed by a jump to 1GB in 2005

  • Olympus upgrades to 1GB flash memory card.
  • HP announces 160GB storage upgrade for its Media Center PCs.
  • Corsair in 2005 announces a USB flash drive with 4GB of storage.
  • Apple announces the Fifth Generation iPod with 30GB capacity.

2007: Yahoo! Mail announces unlimited email storage

  • SanDisk launches 8GB flash card for photo storage.
  • Alienware introduces a desktop computer with 1 terabyte of storage.
  • Apple currently ships the newest 80GB iPod, launched in 2006 and holds up to 100 hours of video.

We’re psyched to be breaking new ground in the digital storage frontier by giving our users the freedom to never worry about deleting old messages again. And, like any responsible webmail service, we have anti-abuse limits in place to protect our users. BTW: As much as we’d like to just flip a switch and “unlimit” everyone on the same day, we’ll be rolling this out over a few months to facilitate a smooth transition — we know there’s virtually nothing more precious than your inbox.

We hope we’re setting a precedent for the future. Someday, can you imagine a hard drive that you can never fill? Never having to empty your photo card on your camera to get space back? Enough storage to fit the world’s music, and then some, on your iPod? Sounds like a future without limits.

Beats a slice of birthday cake, eh?

John Kremer
Vice President, Yahoo! Mail

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