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Gmail is 10 Years Old

Gmail is 10 years old today. It has established itself as the leading mail provider on the net with 425 million active users around the world. Its rivals such as Hotmail have caught up with the Gmail innovations and internet analysts suspect Gmail could lose market share as Google’s Terms and Conditions keep changing in a way that is obtrusive and lacking in transparency.

Gmail was first released in a beta format in 2004. It was invitation only to use Gmail until 2007 when it was released to the public. The original Gmail offered (at the time) a massive 1GB of storage space. Hotmail at that time only gave free users 2 to 4 MB of space.

The innovation of a search box to find key phrases in old emails was a big step forward in making email user friendly, as the amount of data stored becomes unmanageable in a folder system of storage.

If only Gmail had just tinkered and updated rather than trying to cash in. First there was Gmail Wave. It was a failed attempt at a social media interface to rival Facebook. Next there was video chat to try and challenge Skype. I have tried and never got this feature to work.

Most irritating of all is the adverts. Gmail obviously reads the contents of your inbox and outbox and trawls for keywords to match Adsense campaigns. It is eerie the way Google seems intent on snooping on you and trying to get you to click an advert. To take it one step farther Google now send me promotional rubbish – spam essentially – directly to my inbox. Although it goes in the Promotion folder, I just don’t want it. I suspect I am not alone in thinking this.

In contrast Outlook (Microsoft and Hotmail) now offer unlimited storage and no adverts. They can snoop but they don’t wave adverts in your face.

On the subject of spying, Gmail recently announced a new feature – encrypted emails for better security. That is something other email providers don’t offer yet. The caveat is that it is only between Gmail accounts and of course Gmail can read the emails anyway to serve their adverts.

From a webmaster and internet marketer point of view Google is both a great thing and an awful thing. They changed internet interaction for the better, but now their corporate greed is poorly hidden behind a privacy policy that is obtuse, spin doctors and a mantra of doing no evil. Few people surely buy into their moral high ground spiel.

Nevertheless, Happy 10th birthday Gmail!