Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Gmail

Gmail is now five years old. This has to be one of the longest and most stable "betas" around.

I remember when you had to get an invitation to get a Gmail account. If you wanted an account, you had to badger all your geek friends until one of them agreed to send you one of their invites. One only had a limited number of these chits and they were jealously guarded. Matt T (thanks, TDawg!) generously shared one of his with me. My "welcome" email from the GMail team is dated 10/21/04.

Gmail was actually announced on March 31, 2004 with an unheard of 1 GB of storage. At the time, Yahoo mail gave users with free accounts a measly 30 MB. The amount of storage was seen as so large, many people assumed it was yet another of Google's April Fool jokes.

Early concerns over privacy, based on the fact that advertising keyed off words in the body of the current message, were eventually forgotten.

Features were constantly being added; some cool, some (in the opinion of some) rather foolish. Gmail took its beta status seriously.

One of my favorite features is the ability to access mail using
POP and IMAP, as well as the default web interface. To access your Yahoo mail using POP requires a premium ($$$) account. Additional accounts can be accessed using POP, and email can be sent using that alternate address. Vacation responders (auto-response) can be set up, and forwarding.

As Google added additional applications,
your Gmail account became your login identity for features such as Gtalk, Blogger, Google Docs, Calendar and Bookmarks -- features with tight integration to each other. Meeting notices sent to a Gmail account could be easily added to the associated Google Calendar; attachments saved as Google Docs.

To support all this stuff, storage for Gmail accounts is now 7 GB and constantly increasing. Did I mention this was all still free?

If you have a personal domain or small business, Gmail now offers email services for domains. Free. Pricing is available for small businesses, schools and non-profits as well. My wife's school email system uses Gmail. She loves it.

So Happy Birthday, Gmail!

I can't wait to see what you do next.

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