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Yahoo on 26/05/05 is expected to begin testing improvements to its free e-mail service that let subscribers more easily send and share digital photos.

The company has created a new beta program designed to scan the photos on a users' hard drive, and if a user so chooses, drag and drop selections into an e-mail message, without adding cumbersome attachments. Its new service also scours photos in a user's Yahoo storage locker or over its image database of 1.5 billion pictures.

"We're maximizing your time and experience," said Andy Spillane, a vice president in Yahoo Mail division.

Photo-sharing technology is a hot area of development. Yahoo, for example, recently introduced a new instant messaging technology that lets people view photos in a chat window much like a slide show. Meanwhile, competitors are eyeing the market. Last year, Google bought photo service Picasa, which includes an instant messaging application for picture sharing. The company has made several updates to the photo service, and many industry watchers expect Google to unveil an instant messaging client of its own.

Numerous other rivals including Kodak's Ofoto, Shutterfly and Webshots, which is owned by CNET Networks, publisher of

With Yahoo's new PhotoMail service, people can include as many as 300 pictures within an e-mail message in thumbnail version. People can also add captions and borders to photos with the software.