If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, or so they say. Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) plans to double the storage capacity that comes with its free email product, though one might wonder why it didn't just go ahead, pull a Google, (NASDAQ:GOOG) and give away a gig and get it over with already. Although it may very well be hoping for subscribers to pay up for massive amounts of storage space, this hope seems likely to backfire.

Seth Jayson covered the Internet giants' "me-too" attitude recently, when Yahoo! said it plans a foray onto your desktop, right on Google's coattails. And it seems that Yahoo!'s increased storage space announcement is piggybacking on Google's announcement last week that it has added some additional special features to Gmail, such as POP access.

Here's the trip down memory lane. Last April, Google announced Gmail with its unprecedented gigabyte of storage. This started the equivalent of a free email arms race, with Yahoo! and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Hotmail also upping storage capacity for their free email, but not by as much as Google.

Yahoo! responded by upping its free capacity to 100 megabytes last June. Even at that time, my response was that it was a "me-too move that doesn't quite deliver." Now that it has finally increased storage to 250 MB, it has the same amount as Microsoft's Hotmail. Yep, this could end up being too little, too late for some users.

For anyone who might still be running Yahoo! mail (or Hotmail) and Gmail (ahem), the difference is probably clear. Yes, it is possible to burn through 100 MB of storage space. It'll take longer, but you can also use up 250 MB. Sure, it'll take much longer than when Yahoo! mail and Hotmail provided only a stingy 4 MB and 2 MB of storage, respectively. (That sounds sort of ridiculous after all the recent changes in the industry.)

It seems Yahoo! and Hotmail are still locked in the realm of supplementary email address for users' other "real" email addresses, or spam sponges. For those users who do use Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail and have no other email accounts, their data is still ultimately expendable -- they have to prioritize, sort, and delete to make space.

Google, in my humble opinion, does get it. Gmail's gigabyte of storage space -- which it has always touted as giving users the ability to forget about inbox cleaning -- makes it crucial and alleviates information overload with easy searching and organization. In understanding that your email correspondence is important, searchable data, worthy of archiving, Google is positioning Gmail as the gold standard of Web-based email.

And, it seems, Yahoo! and Microsoft are letting it. And making their users pay for more. If you ask me, they just don't get it.

What do you think? Is Yahoo! behind the times, or is 250 MB of storage space plenty to keep its users appeased? Talk to Foolish investors about this and other issues on the Yahoo! or Google discussion boards.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.