AOL testing free 100MB storage locker

America Online looks to bolster its appeal, aiming to give subscribers more room for music, photos and documents.

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By Jim Hu
Staff Writer, CNET

America Online on Friday confirmed that it plans to offer its subscribers 100MB of memory for storing digital files such as music, photos and documents.

Called the service My Storage, AOL will give a 100MB digital locker to every subscriber and up to seven additional screen names that each account holder can create. Because the locker is accessible on the Web, subscribers will be able to retrieve files using any Web-enabled device. AOL will allow subscribers to place files in public storage and share with other users.

AOL has been toying with online storage for its members since September when it began testing File Backup, which automatically backs up PC files onto AOL's servers for a fee. My Storage, on the other hand, is meant to let subscribers organize and share their files.

The company has not set a launch date, though it expects to introduce the service by the end of the year, according to company spokeswoman Jaymelina Esmele.

AOL's latest beta highlights an effort by the company to broaden its appeal to people outside its subscriber base. The Time Warner unit is trying to balance its loss of more than 4 million subscribers over the past two years by attracting people with free content once designated only for subscribers. Encouraged by an improving online advertising market fueled by commercial search, AOL recently reorganized its executive team to more closely focus its free Web efforts.

The nexus of AOL's plan is its home page. The site has existed as an entry point for AOL members to access their e-mail and account information from outside PCs and devices--rather than a Web portal like Yahoo, Google or Microsoft's MSN, which vie for the public's attention.

But AOL has begun changing the site's appearance and features. Last month, it began testing a refurbished Web-based e-mail service that will offer users 100MB of storage. Although it's initially meant for subscribers, AOL expects to eventually use it to lure general Web users to the service.