On the 1st of April 2004, Google the successful search engine (and media) company, announced their free email service with an astronomical 1GB of storage space. They christened this service Gmail and released a beta version.
To understand why this was such a “big deal”, one needs to look at what was being provided by the competition at that time. Other trendy web based email services such as Hotmail (now called Windows Live Hotmail) and Yahoo! Mail offered only 2-4MB – a mere fraction of a gigabyte! By the way, a GB is 1000MB (one thousand MB).
I really liked the way Google launched Gmail beta. The first thing was the timing – awesome! The first of April (April Fool’s day) jelled very well with the image Google was trying to portray – a nerdy fun loving company. The second was the gargantuan amount of storage space – beating the competition by miles and, yes, leaving them panting heavily. The third aspect was that, even though the service was free, one needed to get special Gmail invites to create an account. This was by far the best way to create a storm on the web. Suddenly everyone wanted a Gmail account because everyone wanted to see what was so special in the service that required an invite. At one time, Gmail invitations were sold through online auctions sites like eBay for $100 and more.
So what was so special about Gmail apart from the huge amount of storage space?
If that wasn’t enough to shake the competition, Gmail also offered many features including large email attachments, no annoying flashy image banner ads, a superb spam filter and many more.
With the launch of Gmail, the competition soon upped their storage space because that was what everyone believed was leading to the success of the service. Yahoo! Mail probably the most popular of all email services increased the storage to 100MB from a teeny 4MB and this was still one tenth of a GB. Yahoo! Mail users soon got 250MB and then, after about a year, 1GB. In May 2007, as part of their anniversary celebrations, Yahoo! announced “unlimited” storage space for all email accounts.
Microsoft’s Hotmail, now known as Windows Live Hotmail, was another famous email service. At the launch of Gmail, the storage space on Hotmail was a minute 2MB, upped soon to 25MB and then 250MB.
Not to be left behind, the popular Indian portal, Rediff, announced 1GB of storage for Rediffmail users.
The storage space in Gmail has been increased many times since its first offering. Furthermore, many features have been added – read the section below on the present status of Gmail.
The much admired 1GB storage space at the time of launch is just one aspect that sets Gmail apart from the rest. More importantly is the continual addition of new features to the Gmail service and improvement of older ones.
Speed: To couple the huge storage space which lets you keep thousands of emails, you need fast access and download. Gmail runs off many web servers so that all users can get to work without wasting precious time. Gmail has two versions – the standard view and the basic HTML view; the latter is most suited for surfers on slower internet connections. The absence of flashy image ads (really annoying) also helps in quicker access. Gmail employs relevant text advertisements that pay for the free service (more on this below). When you have thousands of email messages in your account the most important aspect is search and this is where Gmail has proved time and again that it’s one of the best, if not the best! Searching for emails in your Gmail account is a breeze and super quick because the search functionality is derived from the Google search engine technology.
Multiple Languages: At the time of writing, you can view the Gmail interface in more than 50 languages including about 9 from India! To know more, read how to change the language in Gmail account.
Large file attachments and thumbnail views: The email attachment size which was 10MB at the time of launch is now 20MB. Attached image files are generally displayed as thumbnails sparing you the trouble of downloading large photos that your mom-in-law has sent from her vacation when she went mad with her digital camera.
Gmail access and integration: I suppose, the mantra at Gmail is to provide as many features as possible… and that’s really commendable. For example, email forwarding, POP3 and IMAP access, which most email services either don’t have or carry a price tag are offered free on Gmail. Thus, you can configure your Gmail account in your email client – refer Gmail configuration in Outlook Express or setup and configure Gmail on Windows Live Mail.
Gmail on mobiles: The mobile Gmail interface is not only user-friendly but loads in a jiffy. I’ve been using the service on both iPhone and Nokia E61i – superb.
Gmail remains in the beta version – which means it’s still being tested. And this is really surprising as Gmail is now the third most popular email service.
The storage space on Gmail is increasing with each passing day from April of 2005, as per Google’s “Infinity+1” plan. All users now have a little over 7GB. Read more about this in Gmail unlimited space.If you want more storage space you would need to pay a small sum for it – refer Gmail storage space. The email attachment size is now 20MB.
Gmail themes the latest addition to the service (at the time of writing) allow you to personalize and customize your account with images and colours. Cool!
In 2008, Microsoft made a move to buy Yahoo! for more than $40 billion. Jerry Yang, the co-founder, quickly rejected the offer stating that it "substantially undervalues" Yahoo! and is not in the interest of its shareholders. As of 2014, the company's revenue was down to $5 billion. [more...]