A few months ago we talked about Google's plans to offer web-based email, and now it appears those plans have been officially announced. While many people seem to be focusing on the similarities between "Gmail" and other web-based email clients, it's much more interesting to focus on the differences, and why Google is doing this. This is clearly not a "me too" product. First off, while most web-based email providers have fairly limited storage capabilities, Google is offering a free gigabyte to every customer, and claiming that they should never need to delete a single message. And, of course, if you have powerful search, you might not ever need to delete a single message since organizing the messages becomes much easier. And, one thing Google has quite a bit of is powerful search. Lots of people have said in the past that they wish they had a "Google for their email" in order to better track down a certain message. Now it looks like Google is providing exactly that. So, what's the catch? They don't say, but my guess is that (as we wrote in the original discussion about Google email) that Google will also look at the contents of your email and try to place contextual advertising alongside your email. If it's true, we should expect people complaining about Google "spying" on their email. There's also no mention, whatsoever, about spam protection. These days, that seems to be the biggest draw of any new email system - so I'm surprised that Google isn't talking about it. The actual Gmail site is down right now, but I imagine it will be up soon. It will also be interesting to see if they take this to the next step. If Google is really trying to be the new interface for the internet and personalizing search, can you imagine doing a Google search that mixes in results from your email and the web at the same time? Update: There's a lot of discussion going around suggesting this is an April Fool's joke. It just might be. If it is, congratulations to the Google team. They've pulled off a great one.
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