AOL will attempt to compete directly with the likes of Yahoo Inc., MSN and Google Inc. when it launches its own free Web-based e-mail service. They have made available a beta of a revamped Web-based e-mail service called "AOL Mail on the Web", which is available to AOL members who are registered beta testers. The final intention will be to provide web based mail to nonsubscribers of AOL.

In early 2005, the service will replace an existing Web interface that lets AOL's paying subscribers access their e-mail from the site. But later in the year, the company also plans to open the service to nonsubscribers—a move that would pit it against the likes of Yahoo Mail, MSN Hotmail and Google's Gmail beta service.

"It is part of [our] broader strategy to offer more AOL services on the Web to audiences beyond members." - AOL spokeswoman Jaymelina Esmele.

AOL, who has seen its base of dial-up subscribers continue to fall, believes that the move will help to offer AOL's online services to a broader audience.