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Could Yahoo! be feeling a privacy backlash?

The portal duly blocked access to users who had been taking advantage of forwarding and POP3/SMTP e-mail services yesterday, as promised. Yahoo! will now charge $29.99 a year for the privilege. But some late sweeteners have appeared.

Yahoo! had trailed the news with a special promotional offer, which expired on April 24, allowing users to buy back POP3 access with $10 off that $29.99 annual fee. We note that this has now been extended to May 8.

Interestingly, too, Yahoo! has added another inducement. Subscribers won't have to carry Yahoo! advertising in their signature files, something that's been a feature of POP/SMTP at the portal since Day One. That certainly wasn't there a couple of days ago - when we were staggered to discover that even the paid-for service obliged users to send consolation messages to recently-bereaved relatives with "Make Money FAST!!" adornments.

Clearly, users needed incentives to fork out for something they've been getting for free. And it's legitimate to ask how much the privacy furore affected take-up. At the beginning of the month, Yahoo! ripped up its privacy policy affecting US users. Users needed to set over a dozen preferences back to opt-out, although the POP/SMTP feature remained contingent on the "Yahoo! Delivers" third-party spam service remaining active. That obligation remains.

Or perhaps simple incompetence explains the slow-take up of the commercial email services. We've heard from one reader who tried to subscribe, but was refused because the sign-up form requires a two line address. This we can corroborate. If you're credit card simply has street name and city, you'll be out of luck. ®

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