Internet portal Hongkong.com is to charge for e-mail services that come with functions such as spam filtering and added storage. At the same time, the company announced a reduction in mailbox size and cancellation of POP3 forwarding functions for registered users who choose not to upgrade to paid services. The company said it would move those who did not choose subscription services to a different e-mail domain - @mail.hongkong.com instead of @hongkong.com, opening the way for new users to register the abandoned @hongkong.com addresses. An unexpected outcome of the move is that hundreds of users have contacted Hongkong.com to put themselves on waiting lists for e-mail names they do not have, according to David Li, Hongkong.com's vice-president for operations. Popular waiting-list names include footballers such as Beckham and Ronaldo, which at the moment happen to be taken. Several Internet portals have turned to asking users to pay for mail services in their drive to increase non-advertising revenue and recoup infrastructure costs. Mr Li estimated that more than 60 per cent of Hongkong.com's information technology costs were related to e-mail and other communications functions. Over the past year, Tom.com, Netease and Hongkong.com sister portal China.com have also launched paid e-mail services. The Internet operations of all these China-focused portals are still losing money, though paid services such as mobile short messaging and games are being seen as potentially large sources of user revenue. Some sites that have asked users to pay for services they previously received free have seen their traffic fall dramatically. Mr Li said: 'Although the element of risk is there - and we have evaluated the risk - we think the potential far outweighs the risk.' Mr Li said Hongkong.com had about two million registered users of its free e-mail service. He declined to say how many had converted to paid services since Hongkong.com notified users on Monday. The introduction of new services, as well as the domain switch, will take place on August 17. The packages start at HK$88 per year. Additional services include up to 100 megabytes of storage and the ability to block banner ads. Mr Li said he believed members who used the service as a second e-mail box would not mind the change. 'Most people who use free Web mail will deal with the new domain. That's not going to be a major show-stopper for them.' Most of those who had subscribed had chosen the mid-range package. 'We assumed that a lot of people would go with the simplest of the plans, the forwarding. Seventy per cent have gone with the medium plans, with other functionalities,' he said.