Gmail celebrated its 10-year anniversary this month, bringing much-needed competition to the email service market back in April 2004.
The Google-led email service was almost three years in the making and offered users an initial email storage capacity of 1GB – 500 times the size that Microsoft’s popular Hotmail service was offering.
Gmail has since turned out to be revolutionary, blowing away the likes of Hotmail and Yahoo Mail – previously the dominant free webmail services of yesteryear. Its vast storage and feature-laden interface resulted in it becoming the first major cloud-based app.
The main man behind Gmail, Paul Buchheit, came up with the idea for a web-based email whilst working on a personal email software project as a college student back in the 1990s – even prior to the launch of Hotmail.
Buchheit created the very first version of Gmail in just one day by simply recycling the code from Google Groups. The functionality was initially only available for Google employees to use, but Buchheit was clever enough to acknowledge that vast quantities of internal email resulted in a need for search functionality.
Google concluded a five-year beta phase in March 2004 after it had invited 1,000 industry figureheads and friends and family to test the software. Despite going public on 1st April 2004, invites were still needed during this beta phase – during which invites went for more than $150 on eBay.
Gmail has always been the choice for the tech-savvy, what with unlimited storage capacity. In April 2012, Google announced the increase of free storage to 10GB as part of the launch of Google Drive.
Storage was then merged the following year between Gmail, Google Drive and Google+ photos. For start-ups and small businesses working on the move and wanting instant online access to simple tools, Gmail and Google Drive has always been no-brainer.
So much so that 11 per cent of web users in the United States now have a Gmail account – that figure is even greater in India where almost a quarter (24.4 per cent) of users in India own a Gmail account.
The system is now used by approximately 500 million people worldwide.
What makes Gmail such a fascinating product is that its success comes from the continuous focus on problem solving for its users. Back in 2004 it helped solve storage problems; 10 years on and it has become more action-oriented, providing such functionality as live flight statuses within messages and reimagining it for smartphones and tablets.
Gmail is most definitely here to stay.