Chinese Internet portal Sina.com said on Friday it will diminish its free e-mail service and offer a fee-based e-mail service amid a sector-wide trend toward finding new ways to make money from existing users.
Sina will cut the memory of the inboxes in its free e-mail service to five megabytes from 50 megabytes and offer a paid service it said would be faster and safer, the firm said in a statement.
"Paid e-mail service is an important step in network service providers responding to the demands of the market," president of sina.com Wang Yan was quoted as saying.
People using the paid e-mail service would be protected from e-mail advertisements and hacker attacks, Wang said.
Users of its free e-mail service will have until September 15 to pare down their inboxes to five megabytes of memory, which is spacious compared to the two megabytes offered by Microsoft Corp's free Hotmail service.
Mainland portals www.21cn.net, www.263.net and 163.net, the mainland arm of Hong Kong's Tom.com, have already introduced fees for e-mail in an effort to turn their popularity into profits.
International Data Corp estimated online advertising spending in China would be a mere US$39 million and none of China's top Web portals, including Nasdaq-listed NetEase.com Inc and Sohu.com Inc, have posted a profit.
Chinadotcom Corp, which operates a mainland portal, plans a host of fee-for-service initiatives from this month, including e-mail, to help the company in its quest to break even.
China has 26.5 million Internet users, according to the most recent official survey.