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One of the internet's first free email systems is back in business after supporters rallied against its possible closure.

David Harris, creator of the Pegasus and Mercury email systems, has vowed to resume development, reversing his earlier decision to wind down after 17 years.

In order to continue, though, Pegasus and Mercury users may need to start paying to provide a reliable source of funding for Harris' development work. Since going live in 1990 Pegasus has been picked up by millions of users.

According to Harris: "Pegasus Mail and Mercury have served the internet for 17 years; it's now really up to you, the community it serves, to decide whether it makes it to 20 years and beyond."

Harris reluctantly announced he'd stop development of Pegasus and Mercury on January 3. In barely three weeks, though, Harris received an "absolute avalanche of mail, phone calls, faxes and other communications wanting me to continue."

Harris said: "Let me say emphatically that it was never my desire to cease development, but maintaining and supporting these programs is a full-time, expensive process, and I simply cannot do it without sufficient, ongoing, reliable financial support."

As such, Harris is restructuring his funding. So far, that seems Pegasus could become supported by donations while the Mercury mail transport system will be licensed based on users' numbers of mail boxes. Any final decision will be predicated on public discussion, Harris said.®

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