May 27, 2004 1:19 PM PDT

The fellowship of the 1GB storage lockers

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April 1, 2004
Move over Google, here comes Middle Earth.

British-based Planet-Tolkien.com is the latest company to offer a Web-based e-mail product with 1 gigabyte of storage--a trend that kicked off in late March with the test release of Google's Gmail service.

Since then, a number of copycats have come forward, including Web portal Lycos. Meanwhile, Google rival Yahoo has boosted storage for its Web-based e-mail service from 10 megabytes to 100MB.

Planet-Tolkien founder Tarrant Costelloe said the site's service launched on Wednesday and that it has signed up 1,800 customers for the $7-a-month offering.

"We're trying to build up features to start charging for services, and we had a good idea people were interested in e-mail," he said. "We originally thought about providing 10MB service, but we knew Google was going to do 1GB, so thought we'd try to get in there first."

Planet-Tolkien is a themed Web portal offering resources on "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien. The site lets members inhabit a virtual world based on the enormously popular books, as well as choose a virtual character that can interact with other members within the spirit of the novels.

Costelloe said he plans to launch an online role-playing game within the site shortly.

He said he had considered the danger that some customers might put 1GB of storage to unauthorized use, such as hosting pirated software and media files, but decided that the risk was worth it.

"It was discussed what people might use that amount of space for," he said. "If people use it for 'warez' or put us in a position where we don't want to be, we can shut them down on a case-by-case basis."

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