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Microsoft (ticker: MSFT) recently launched a free service to provide free email and instant messaging for people with their own domain names. Microsoft's offer: if you already own your own Internet domain name, Microsoft will host e-mail and IM for you. You can: create up to 20 e-mail accounts within your domain; get a 250 MB inbox for each account; check your e-mail from any Web-enabled PC; junk e-mail filter protection using Microsoft SmartScreen technology; virus scanning and cleaning of e-mail; seamless access with MSN Messenger, MSN Spaces, etc.

About which TechCrunch comments:

...when I look at services like this and Office Live, it seems to me that the industry that needs to be most concerned are the domain name registrars. Many of the services Microsoft is offereing for free are the types of things that reigstrars charge for today. Microsoft is starting to create really impressive productity tools for the small business. And they aren’t charging for these tools. Competitors need to watch out.

From an investor's perspective, there are no longer many publicly-traded companies with exposure to the domain name registration business. (ticker: RCOM) is now private, and Verisign (ticker: VRSN) gets most of its revenue from other lines of business. That leaves only Tucows (ticker: TCX, previously TCOW), which has had quite a run. Click on TCX chart to enlarge.