Microsoft and Yahoo are aggressively trying to push people to paid e-mail services by making it harder than ever to rely on free ones. Apple Computer is cutting free e-mail service altogether.

In the latest move, on Wednesday Microsoft cleaned out all messages that were more than thirty days old in everyone’s Hotmail “Sent Items” folder. Within the last few months, both Microsoft and Yahoo reduced the amount of storage space for messages and cut off access to POP3 accounts. Microsoft appears to have weakened its junk mail filter so more spam clogs up each Hotmail mailbox, which uses up the allotted storage space very quickly.

In general, companies offering free services can change their usage policies at will. If you rely on a free service, anything entrusted to that service is at risk – as many have found out when companies have folded and personal files have been deleted.

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