10 years later, Google launching Gmail on April 1st is still not a joke

If you wanted to get a free email account back in 2004, there were plenty of options; there was Hotmail by Microsoft, and Yahoo Mail was also popular. However, the launch of Gmail by Google 10 years ago today was regarded by many people as a joke at first.

It didn't help matters that Google chose April Fools' Day to make its official announcement; lots of folks thought it was a prank. Google claimed that Gmail offered 1 GB of free storage, which was well above what Hotmail and Yahoo Mail gave to its users. The idea of being able to search for words inside emails was also new, as was turning mail messages between people into "conversations".

This Google Gmail image from 2004 shows how ads, or "Sponsored Links", looked inside the client.

10 years later, Gmail is now one of the world's biggest free email sources, and has replaced the regular email desktop client for many users. However, as Time points out in a new article, Gmail had a lot of skeptics inside the company while it was under development but it's now one of the company's most well known services, thanks in part to its use of ads generated by the emails of its users.

Paul Buchheit created the first version of Gmail simply by making a search engine for his own emails while at Google. Later, the small Gmail team developed the front end using JavaScript, which enabled it to add features that the HTML-based Hotmail could not use.

When the service did launch, only a few outsiders were asked to use it and soon getting a Gmail account was considered to be the new hip thing in the tech industry. People actually started selling Gmail invite codes on eBay until Google stepped in and made that practice illegal. Gmail didn't open up to everyone until 2007 and the beta label itself wasn't removed until 2009.

Many people were not happy with Gmail scanning their email messages to create the "Sponsored Links". Indeed, California state senator Liz Figueroa announced just a few days after Gmail's launch she would write a bill that would ban such practices. That version of the bill never became law, but many people and companies, including Microsoft, still don't like the fact that Gmail creates ad links from the messages of its user's emails.

Even with that controversy, there's no denying that 10 years after the launch of Gmail, it changed the face of emails for many people. It also changed Google from just a search engine to a company that offered free web-based tools which have expanded and improved to this day.

Source: Time | Image via Google

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Come off it. You're pulling my leg. This article is obviously another April Fools joke.

I live in China - the world's biggest computer market - and I know there's no such thing as "Google".. Hahaha. That's funny. A company whose name translates to "good dog". If there was a company called Google, we would have heard about them.

If it wasn't for Gmail, then Outlook wouldn't be what it is today.....Gmail's clone.

Gmail was revolutionary. Not just in terms of free storage but with functionality. It had more functionality than Outlook Express and Hotmail combined. It's functionality could even rival (full) Outlook & Eudora for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

You talk about a joke, there was Hotmail. There you had a terrible UI; flashing picture ads; and with Microsoft running it, no innovation and no improvements.

There would be absolutely NO Outlook.com if it weren't for Gmail.

+1

IMHO I think that outlooks sucks ass compared to GMAIL.

GMAIL has heaps of great features and i think that all these people that are commenting and saying that its a joke etc haven't used it since like 2007, there has been heaps of improvements since then and I would use it over a desktop client any day

yea, without Gmail, other email providers would still be stingy with 'space/storage quota'.
i remember those providers charges $$ for extra 50 MB storage, the 1GB gmail ruins their charging schemes.

I remember those days when we had 4MB as storage space and had been deleting emails to make some space and then Google came with whooping 1GB space. I am still using the same email address which I had 10 years ago.

It wasn't a joke back then but it has become one. The interface is a mess. They keep adding links to other services to it. It's time to redesign the UI based on what it can do today. Basically what Microsoft did with Outlook (besides the name change). I have to use Gmail for my study and I decided to forward my mail to Outlook because I no longer want to deal with that interface.

Many people were not happy with Gmail scanning their email messages to create the "Sponsored Links".

So... they didn't use the system? Ah no - they did, just that they moaned about it.

I never switched to Gmail when it was the cool thing to do, i have always disliked the web interface and still do to this day. However we do have a lot to thank Google for, i'm glad Gmail forced other email providers to give us more than a few megabytes of space and offer access to email's from a desktop client, something few free email providers did back then.

Gmail was ok when it launched, now it's just a complete mess. I've switched to icloud, which although is lacking in some features, for those who want a no frills solution, it's really good.

I keep considering switching to iCloud. Did you keep your original gmail address or did you abandon it? I think that is what keeps me from moving to iCloud. My gmail address is so established with me that I don't think I can just abandon it. The result would just be me checking two email accounts instead of just one and that is not the direction I want to go.

Shadrack said,
I keep considering switching to iCloud. Did you keep your original gmail address or did you abandon it? I think that is what keeps me from moving to iCloud. My gmail address is so established with me that I don't think I can just abandon it. The result would just be me checking two email accounts instead of just one and that is not the direction I want to go.

I set a forwarding on to my new icloud address. To be honest, it's easier than you think.

The only thing you need to be careful about is if you already have an icloud account which uses your gmail address. The apps you may have purchased will be still on that.

I fell for it for a few years... BUT between Buzz, Wave and Google+ and countless other Privacy debacles haha... NOPE I've since gone to Outlook and it was well worth it

Its really amusing how many people seem to be in complete trust of Microsoft and in complete distrust of Google or Apple when it comes to their personal data. I'm not sure how anyone can come to an objective conclusion that their data is somehow safer with MS.

What do you make of the recent news that MS went through Outlook email of a user because they suspected that the person was involved in a leak? Is that not enough of a "privacy debacle" for you? IMO they all have black eyes when it comes to privacy, and making claims that one big for profit company will keep your private data safer than some other big for profit company is extremely comical.

If your ultimate concern is privacy, then I wouldn't recommend any free email service provider.

Shadrack said,
Its really amusing how many people seem to be in complete trust of Microsoft and in complete distrust of Google or Apple when it comes to their personal data.

Well, to be fair in regards to Google vs Microsoft, Microsoft has a larger non-advertisement income, where as most of Google's money is via advertising and data collecting.

Microsoft went through some guys account that stole their IP, it's unethical sure, but the guy was an idiot for conducting illegal activities through the email of the company he was stealing from. Google, on the other hand, had an incident where one of the employees was stalking and accessing an underage girl's email. Truth is your email is not secure as long as it's on someone elses server, and/or you aren't using encryption of any type...

As for the apple vs microsoft... that's just rivalry /2cents

Askew_ said,

Well, to be fair in regards to Google vs Microsoft, Microsoft has a larger non-advertisement income, where as most of Google's money is via advertising and data collecting.

Microsoft went through some guys account that stole their IP, it's unethical sure, but the guy was an idiot for conducting illegal activities through the email of the company he was stealing from. Google, on the other hand, had an incident where one of the employees was stalking and accessing an underage girl's email. Truth is your email is not secure as long as it's on someone elses server, and/or you aren't using encryption of any type...

As for the apple vs microsoft... that's just rivalry /2cents

In the context of advertisements: all companies discussed here are involved in the business of online advertisements. I don't agree with your argument that just because MS doesn't make most of its money off of advertisement that it somehow respects user privacy more than Google. Who is to say what the future holds exactly? Five years from now, online advertisement may become big business for MS. That is definitely something they are trying to accomplish (and have been trying to for many years now). If that were to happen, who is to say what they do with all the data that they've collected from you at that time? Do you think that their privacy policies are better because they have not been successful at growing in the online advertisement sector?

I just don't buy it as an objective conclusion to make the argument MS privacy > Google privacy.

Regardless, we seem to arrive at the same conclusion that if privacy is paramount then you shouldn't be using any free online email services.

I don't Steal company IP, and use their networks to do so. And I don't plan on it in the future so I'm not worried about my Privacy at all

I also don't plan on uploading and Sharing copyrighted/stolen files using OneDrive, so I don't fear MS scanning my shared content either

In other words, I don't plan on Violating their Terms of service

dingl_ said,
I don't Steal company IP, and use their networks to do so. And I don't plan on it in the future so I'm not worried about my Privacy at all

I also don't plan on uploading and Sharing copyrighted/stolen files using OneDrive, so I don't fear MS scanning my shared content either

In other words, I don't plan on Violating their Terms of service

If you did something against MS, and all that MS has to prove it is that they snooped through your email and found something incriminating, then you are A-OK with that? That's the complete opposite of privacy, lol. That's the "I have nothing to hide so I don't care about privacy" argument.

When it comes to Google, you don't trust them because of "privacy debacles." But, when it comes to MS, you trust them all the way because you are "not worried about [your] Privacy at all." Really?

Microsoft has Hash checks it and various other methods of detecting if unauthorised copies of their software are laying around in unauthorised accounts... Same as companies use to detect copyrighted files

They can do these sorts of checks without even scanning any of your own personal stuff

So no, I do not care what Microsoft does to protect its own IP on its own service, so long as they limit these sorts of checks to criminal activity, or public safety etc

BUT all that said, MS has changed its policy and will now involve Law officials for even internal criminal matters and update their Terms of use

Every other companys terms of use still allow for them to access your data whenever they deem necessary(like MS did prior), but this no longer applys to MS as they stated their new terms are effective immediately as of a couple days ago

Here are just a few other companies who had and still have the same terms of use as Microsoft had

Google, Twitter, reddit, Yahoo, Facebook etc
http://i.imgur.com/z9DaqdD.png

So when it comes down to it, Yea, MS did not try to hide how they went about their investigation, they were out in the open about it. I simply just trust MS with my data more so than Google(a giant Ad company out to make $ off all of your personal info both private and public)

Also Google in general has caused me more grief than MS in terms of rolling out useless and buggy services into other products, WavebuzzPlus garbage, None of which you could disable without crippling your account... Fun

While I'm at it speaking of other companys who have those same Terms of use as Microsoft HAD, you would be sorely naive to think those other company's hadn't taken advantage of those terms themselves

bitbucket said,
Still one of the biggest jokes of an email platform IMO.

What is the joke? Can you elaborate instead of making wild accusations?

True. Outlook has the far superior Contacts management and the Message threading works flawlessly on outlook. Not to forget the usage of IMAP accounts properly or the superior aliases that can not even be used to send a mail. Well and don't forget sending mail over the added other mail accounts using the superior Hotmail mail server... well at least you can drag and drop files into mails now.. took them just ages... surely your negative seems to be biased by your fanboyism. Well and since you have that awesome WP tile I guess you will know of all the great outlook features you cant even use on your phone

I was one of the lucky ones to get a Gmail back when invites were scarce and I still use that email account to this day. I'm very happy with the service. The ads don't bother me, they're not very intrusive to me and the pros outweigh the cons.

Kushan said,
I was one of the lucky ones to get a Gmail back when invites were scarce and I still use that email account to this day. I'm very happy with the service. The ads don't bother me, they're not very intrusive to me and the pros outweigh the cons.

Same here.

Kushan said,
I was one of the lucky ones to get a Gmail back when invites were scarce and I still use that email account to this day. I'm very happy with the service. The ads don't bother me, they're not very intrusive to me and the pros outweigh the cons.

This. Never had issues or problems, always found it a decent and easy to use service. Done me for nigh on 10yr.

I used to use outlook back when I was freelancing as a web designer, but ended up routing everything to gmail as I preferred it being in one place, and was sold on the stupid gigabyte storage bs. (10 yrs later this has become a living hell due to lazy owner, me, not emptying it).

But yeah tbh, Ive nothing to hide, so im not caring about tailored adverts or the fact that my p0rn habits are a valuable demographic to some urzbakistanian cheese marketing firm.

Shadowzz said,
Yeah it was a joke and we all fell for it. Gave up our entire life's for Google to sell :(

Haha, joke's on us!

Gmail has always been a joke, it was and still is an abomination of an email service.

nickcruz said,
Gmail has always been a joke, it was and still is an abomination of an email service.

Even people who don't use Gmail have benefited from it. To call it an "abomination" is extremely hyperbolic.

nickcruz said,

Gmail has always been a joke, it was and still is an abomination of an email service.

Care to elaborate rather than calling many people, including myself, an idiot?

MikeChipshop said,
Care to elaborate rather than calling many people, including myself, an idiot?

As someone who is forced to web client only as a corporate email system, I'm with nickcruz.
Sorry if you feel like an idiot for someone calling gmail an abomination of a service.

Shadowzz said,
Yeah it was a joke and we all fell for it. Gave up our entire life's for Google to sell :(

Haha, joke's on us!

Hotmail did the same thing for me. However it was for petfood and i didn't even have a pet.

MikeChipshop said,

Care to elaborate rather than calling many people, including myself, an idiot?

I dont think he called anyone who uses it any names at all. Just that he thinks Gmail is a crummy email service. I dont agree with that but he didnt attack you or their users at all...

Scabrat said,

I dont think he called anyone who uses it any names at all. Just that he thinks Gmail is a crummy email service. I dont agree with that but he didnt attack you or their users at all...

I disagree...


Yeah it was a joke and we all fell for it. Gave up our entire life's for Google to sell :(

Haha, joke's on us!

MikeChipshop said,

I disagree...

I do think we gave up our entire lives to Google. They scan everything. Emails you get, searches you do. They have a HUGE amount of information on everyone who use their service.

Now, you can argue that humans dont know what you do or that you dont care if they have your info. But NOTHING in that said you were stupid for using it. It was now they have all our data. Jokes on us now...

Scabrat said,

I do think we gave up our entire lives to Google. They scan everything. Emails you get, searches you do. They have a HUGE amount of information on everyone who use their service.

Now, you can argue that humans dont know what you do or that you dont care if they have your info. But NOTHING in that said you were stupid for using it. It was now they have all our data. Jokes on us now...

I'm well aware they have a huge amount of data on me, but then that's what i exchange for the use of their products and that is my choice... so really no joke on me or most users what so ever.

Most users have no clue they're giving away their entire personal lives to cooperation's. That was the joke :)

The anti-Google movement that is forming in recent years is mainly because people figure out why the services they use are free. More and more people around me (average joe's when it comes to computers) going anti-google, ditching facebook (or using a fake name) etc.

Give it a few years :)

The joke is on anyone who things any service will keep your data 100 percent secure and wont do anything shady. Security starts with the user.

Please explain how. This was way better than hotmail or yahoo at the time and even today. Both services had to drastically change to keep up

nickcruz said,

Gmail has always been a joke, it was and still is an abomination of an email service.