In a sign Google isn't taking its lead for granted, the company is the in process of phasing in changes to Gmail that will give it a slightly different look and add more features.
All the retooling underscores the ongoing importance of traditional email, even as people increasingly rely on text messages sent on phones and thoughts shared on Facebook and Twitter. Despite its shrinking market share, Yahoo says it still processes about 30 billion emails each day and estimates its users collectively check their inboxes about 190 million times per day.
Although none of the major email providers charge to set up an account on the Web, the services are valuable because they encourage repeat visits and require people to log in. Internet companies covet activities occurring under a logged-in identity because they can more easily track people's preferences and tailor ads more likely to appeal to users' tastes.
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