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Yahoo! is to start charging for its email forwarding and POP3 services.

Users of the service have until April 24 to decided whether to cough up for the service. Yahoo! said it will offer existing users the service for a special promo price of $19.99. The normal fee is $29.99 a year.

Yahoo! claims it is imposing the subscription so that it can "improve service quality…and reduce spam". The fact that Yahoo! lost $92.8 million last year obviously has nothing to do with it.

However, Yahoo!'s decision is yet another sign that those tucking in to the Net's free lunch might now be on their last helping.

In a separate move, Ireland.com - home of the Irish Times - is to start charging for premium content from the summer. Pricing details will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

The newspaper said the introduction of fees was a growing trend among content providers.

Earlier this week the Oxford University Press (OUP) said it was making its vast library of reference material available online for a fee.

The Times newspaper also said this week that it would start charging for content. ®

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