2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Websites and the Internet

Gmail's beta logo
Gmail screenshot

Gmail Inbox
Developer: Google
OS: Cross-platform (web-based application)
Use: POP3 e-mail, Webmail

Gmail, officially Google Mail in the United Kingdom and Germany, is a free webmail and POP3 e-mail service provided by Google. Known for its abundant storage and advanced interface, Gmail competes mainly with AIM Mail, Windows Live Mail (previously known as MSN Hotmail), and Yahoo! Mail.

Released on April 1, 2004, Gmail rapidly reached a wide range of users, quickly evolving in response to feedback. After more than two and a half years, Gmail is officially still in beta.

Access to the service is limited to those who have an invitation from an existing account holder, from Blogger, or through their mobile phone. Google has stated that the invitation system is intended to reduce the amount of abuse, as spammers are unable to make a large number of accounts, something which they can do with other services like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, whose registration is completely open.

Google has made accounts available, without an invitation or Google SMS, to anyone in Australia and New Zealand since August 9, 2006 and Japan since August 23, 2006.


While Gmail is not entirely open to the general public yet, most Gmail users have many invites to spare, as Google gives users anything from 0 to 100 free invitations (and frequently replenishes them, as a reward for users who frequently check their Gmail accounts ). It is possible for someone in Australia, New Zealand or Japan to sign up without an invitation. Someone can also sign up if one has a mobile phone from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Philippines, or the United States via SMS Signup or a .edu e-mail address from an accredited U.S. institution. One can find free Gmail invites at various Web sites, or even for sale at online auctions, despite Google's prohibition of selling of Gmail addresses.

The service is notable for providing over 2.78 gigabytes ( as of November 2006) of storage space, increased from the original limit of 1 GB. This change was announced on April 1, 2005, and was made for the one-year anniversary of Gmail. The announcement was accompanied by a statement that Google would "keep giving people more space forever". All Google will say about this now is that it will keep increasing by the second as long as they have enough space on their servers. Although Gmail's storage space continuously goes up, Google is only increasing the inbox capacity by a nominal four bytes per second (as of 27 October 2006). The growth rate was faster when the announcement was first made. If the present growth rate continues unchanged, storage capacity will reach 3 gigabytes by the middle of 2009.

Gmail also has an integrated calendar named " Google Calendar" that was launched on April 12, 2006.

Gmail makes intensive use of Ajax (specifically, the AjaXSLT framework), employing modern browser features such as JavaScript and keyboard access keys, allowing for a rich user experience, while retaining the benefits of a web application. Most importantly, the service is available on any computer with a supported browser: Internet Explorer 5.5+, Mozilla Application Suite 1.4+, Firefox 0.8+, Safari 1.2.1+, , Netscape 7.1+, Opera 9+. Gmail also offers "Basic HTML view" to allow users to access the Gmail messages from almost any computer running browsers that do not fully support the more advanced features, such as Internet Explorer 4.0+, Netscape 4.07+ or Opera 6.03+, or users with JavaScript disabled. Gmail's Help Centre provides a list of fully supported browsers. Gmail has recently also become available as a downloadable application for mobile phones as well as WAP-enabled mobile phones. It also works on the PSP and Nintendo DS Opera Browser web browsers, but is not fully supported.

There has been some criticism of Gmail's information and privacy policies. Much of it stems from phrases in Gmail's Privacy Policy which state that Gmail will keep all e-mail for "some time" even if it has been deleted or the account terminated and that Gmail will disclose personal information (including the actual text of e-mails) if it has a "good faith belief" that such a disclosure is necessary for various reasons such to "protect the rights, property or safety of ... the public". Similarly, some privacy advocates criticize the lack of disclosed data retention and correlation policies. More than 30 privacy and civil rights organizations have urged Google to suspend the Gmail service until these issues are resolved.


Conversation views

A major innovation Gmail introduced was its method of categorizing e-mails, which Google calls Conversation View. In contrast to other e-mail services, Gmail keeps track of individual "conversations" (an original message, along with all the replies to that message) by grouping them together. This allows users to easily view all the e-mails related to a specific message, and it keeps the inbox more organized. Gmail's algorithm for determining how conversations fit together is not perfect, however: Single conversations sometimes become fragmented (especially when a replier changes the e-mail's subject line) and unrelated conversations occasionally become attached together. Also, if a conversation has more than approximately 100 messages, it splits into two separate storage sections, sometimes resulting in 5 or 6 chunks making up a whole conversation.

Labels instead of folders

Gmail allows users to categorize their e-mails with "labels." Labels give users a flexible method of categorizing e-mails, since an e-mail may have any number of labels (in contrast to a system in which an e-mail may belong to only one folder). Users can display all e-mails having a particular label and can use labels as a search criterion. Gmail also allows users to set up filters which label incoming e-mail automatically.

Auto save enhancement

Google has added an Auto Save feature to Gmail, a system for avoiding loss of data in case of a browser crash or other error. When composing an e-mail, a draft copy of the message and any attachments are saved automatically. Although messages begin to be saved once a minute, saving times vary depending on the size of the message.

Keyboard shortcuts

Gmail allows users to navigate its interface by using the keyboard as an accessible alternative to the mouse, which is the norm for site navigation. This feature is not enabled by default, although instructions on how to enable it are provided.

Optional dots

Gmail usernames must be between 6 and 30 characters (inclusive) and made up of only letters, numbers, and dots. The use of dots, however, are optional (that is, Gmail ignores dots when resolving addresses). Google states that "Gmail doesn't recognize dots (.) as characters within a username. This way, you can add and remove dots to your username for desired address variations." For instance, the account receives mail sent to,, etc. Likewise, the account receives mail sent to This can be useful in setting filters for incoming mail. However, when signing in it is necessary to include any dots used in the creation of the account.


Gmail also supports "plus-addressing" of e-mails. Messages can be sent to addresses in the form: where extratext can be any string. Plus-addressing allows users to sign up for different services with different aliases and then easily filter all e-mails from those services. However, a significant number of services do not support email addresses containing plus signs.

Talk integration

Gmail's "Talk" features allow users to chat with other people who are online that have a Gmail account. It interacts with the Jabber network, so it can be synchronised with Google Talk, and other Jabber clients (including Gizmo Project, Psi, Miranda IM and iChat). However, only text-based chat can take place within Internet Browsers, with a limit to four chats at once. Voice calling is therefore one of Google Talk's advantages.

Added in late 2006 was the voicemail feature, which allows users to leave a voice message for contacts who are not online. The voicemail system is also reached if a user does not answer a call. Gmail keeps an index of voicemails received on Gmail itself, because this feature is accessible to users who have opted not to install Google Talk. Another feature added at the same time was the ability to make calls from the Gmail page itself. However, this only works if you have Google Talk downloaded and are placing a call from the webpage instead of the Google Talk software.

Gmail Chat also allows the user to keep an archive of chats in their Gmail account - although this is disabled if either user in a conversation objects (called 'off the record mode' by Google). However, 'off the record' mode does not guarantee anonymity, since the other user could be using a third-party client with its own logging ability such as Gaim. The other user could also copy and paste the conversation into a text editor and save it.

Gmail also recently introduced contact pictures and introduced sound into Gmail Chat, so users receive auditory notifications when receiving an instant message through Gmail Chat.

Gmail offers a "standard without chat" view. This is the regular standard view without the chat functionality. Opera 8+ supports "standard without chat" view, although it does not support "standard" view - unless Opera is set to mask itself as Internet Explorer.

Because of the move away from e-mail, and therefore the name "Gmail", Google has changed the logo for Gmail, so that it includes '+ talk'. The logo also has a glossier finish compared to its predecessor.

Calendar integration

On April 13, 2006, Google rolled out Google Calendar. It allows users to create multiple calendars, which hold appointments, and can be shared with other users through private addresses, or completely public on the web.

It is fully integrated with Gmail, as events can be added whilst writing a message, that get stored on the main Calendar interface. Recipients who use Gmail will then receive an invitation to the event, which they can accept or decline. Furthermore, Gmail attempts to recognise event dates and locations within e-mails, and gives users the option to add the event to a calendar.


Gmail was ranked second in PC World's "The 100 Best Products of 2005", behind Mozilla Firefox. Gmail also won 'Honorable Mention' in the Bottom Line Design Awards 2005. Gmail has drawn many favorable reviews from users because of its available space and unique organization..


Absent features

The conversation view groups related messages in a linear stack that can be expanded and collapsed. While innovative, it offers no option to differentiate messages that branch off from the original thread. This can occur when mail is sent to multiple recipients who respond individually, or when someone changes the subject line of a message he or she is responding to.

Some features present in several desktop e-mail applications but missing in Gmail are: sorting, "attachment warning," and automatic bounce-back of unwanted mail (imitating a mail-daemon message). Some of these absent features are offered by other webmail applications, sometimes for a price. Also, the lack of IMAP support is the most common complaint according to Most wanted Gmail features.

Non-US interfaces

Because Google is located primarily in the United States, non-US interfaces may experience a delay in receiving upgrades and features. Google Calendar is not available through all non-US Gmail interfaces. However, if non-US users change their language to English (US) they can access these services. Support for entering bi-directional text is currently available only in the Arabic and Hebrew interfaces.


There has been criticism regarding Gmail's privacy policy. Many believed that the clause "residual copies of e-mail may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted messages from your mailbox or after the termination of your account" meant that Google may intentionally archive copies of deleted mail forever. Google continues to reply to this criticism by pointing out that Gmail is using mostly industry-wide practices. Google later stated that they will "make reasonable efforts to remove deleted information from our systems as quickly as is practical."

Most of the criticism, however, was against Google's plans to add context-sensitive advertisements to e-mails by automatically scanning them. Privacy advocates raised concerns that the plan involved scanning their personal, assumed private, e-mails, and that this was a security problem. Allowing e-mail content to be read, even by a computer, for advertising purposes, raises the risk that the expectation of privacy in e-mail will be reduced. Furthermore, non-subscribers' e-mail is scanned by Gmail as well, and these senders of e-mail did not agree to Gmail's terms of service or privacy policy. Also taken into account is the fact that Google can change its privacy policy unilaterally, and that Google is technically able to cross-reference cookies across its information-rich product line to make dossiers on individuals. However, again the practice is standard across all email systems—it is the only way spam mail checkers can work.

Opponents of these views state that when one's e-mail is checked to see if it is spam, it is being scanned by the same process. Because a human is not reading the message, they say, it is not a problem.

What privacy advocates also consider another problem is the lack of disclosed data retention and correlation policies. It is possible for Google to combine information contained in a person's emails with information about their Internet searches. It is not known how long such information would be kept, and how it could be used. One of the concerns is that it could be of interest to law enforcement agencies. More than 30 privacy and civil rights organizations have urged Google to suspend Gmail service until these issues are resolved.

Development history

Gmail was a project begun by Google developer Paul Buchheit years before it was ever announced to the public. For several years, the software was only available internally, as an email client for Google employees.

Gmail was finally announced to the public in 2004 amid a flurry of rumor. Owing to April Fool's Day, however, the company's press release was greeted with skepticism in the technology world, especially since Google already had been known to make April Fool's Jokes (such as PigeonRank). However, they explained that their real joke had been a press release saying that they would take offshoring to the extreme by putting employees in a " Google Copernicus Centre" on the Moon. Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's vice-president of products, was quoted by BBC News as saying, "We are very serious about Gmail."

Gmail also initially received a lot of criticism for a statement they made in their original terms of use, refusing to guarantee that all e-mails at Gmail would be deleted upon request by the user. Google later clarified that they were referring to backup copies of e-mails, and promised that all deleted mails would eventually be expunged completely from their servers. This, along with the feature that advertisements would be generated by software-based scanning of e-mails in order to better target them, gave rise to a controversy on web privacy (see BBC News Article; for a defense see " The Fuss About Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It's Bogus").

Before being acquired by Google, the domain name was used by the free e-mail service offered by, online home of the comic strip Garfield. This free e-mail service has moved to

As of June 22, 2005, Gmail's canonical URI has been changed to instead of

On November 2, 2006, Google began offering a mobile-application based version of its Gmail product for mobile phones capable of running Java applications . Those interested in using the application can download it from directly from their mobile phone. In addition, Sprint announced separately that it would make the application available from its Vision and Power Vision homepages and which will be preloaded onto some new Sprint phones. The application gives Gmail its own custom menu system, which is much easier to navigate than a Web-based application would be on a cell phone. Gmail's message threading also shows up clearly, and the site displays attachments (like photos, Word documents) in the application.

Gmail for your domain

On February 10, 2006, Google introduced Gmail for your domain. This service, currently in beta testing, allows organizations to offer e-mail services through Gmail using their own domain. Google may eventually open the service to all domain owners, as Microsoft has with its Windows Live Custom Domains service.

Google Mail

  • On July 4, 2005, Google announced that Gmail Deutschland would be rebranded Google Mail. From that point forward, visitors originating from an IP address determined to be in Germany would be forwarded to where they could obtain an email address containing the new domain. Any German user who wants a address must sign up for an account through a proxy. German users who were already registered were allowed to keep their old addresses.
  • On October 19, 2005, the United Kingdom version of Gmail was converted to Google Mail, because "Gmail" is trademarked by another company in the UK. However, this can be bypassed by using a proxy. Users who registered before the switch to Googlemail face no problems whatsoever - they keep their Gmail address (although the logo in the top-left of the page appears as 'Google Mail').
  • Even if the user is signed up with Google Mail, email sent to the version of your email address will still be received. This is also the same for the other way around.


After Gmail's initial announcement and development, many existing web mail services quickly increased their storage capacity. For example, Hotmail went from giving some users 2MB to 25MB (250MB after 30 days, and 2 GB for Hotmail Plus accounts), while Yahoo! Mail went from 4MB to 100MB (and 2 GB for Yahoo! Mail Plus accounts). Yahoo! Mail storage then proceeded to 250MB, and finally, in late April of 2005, to 1GB. These were all seen as moves to stop existing users from switching to Gmail, and to capitalize on the newly rekindled public interest in web mail services. The desire to catch up was especially visible for MSN Hotmail, which upgraded its e-mail storage erratically from 250 MB to the new Windows Live Mail (beta) which includes 2 GB of storage over a number of months. In August of 2005, AOL started providing all AIM screen names with their own e-mail accounts with 2 GB of storage. Another example of competition came from 30Gigs who were offering 30 gigabytes of storage, and was also invite only, but now offers free accounts for anyone.

Every account which is inactive for 6 months is labeled dormant, and 3 months later (a total of 9 months), gets deactivated by Gmail. All stored messages get deleted and the account gets "recycled", which means the account name can be used by any other users afterwards. Other webmail services, like Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail, have different, often shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after four months, while Hotmail deactivates free accounts after only one month.

Other than the general increase of storage limit, there has also been an improvement of the e-mail interfaces of Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail after the launch of Gmail. Gmail's ability to have an attachment size of 10MB was also matched by Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail during 2005. Following the footsteps of Gmail, Yahoo! launched the Yahoo! Mail Beta service and Microsoft launched Windows Live Mail, both now incorporating Ajax interfaces.

Help in Gmail

When users first sign up for Gmail, they are prompted to take the Gmail Tour which teaches them the basic features and what makes Gmail different. There is also a help page teaching new Gmail users how to import their contacts from their previous webmail account using CSV. However, it only offers personalized help for Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail; it has also been reported that recently-created Gmail accounts will receive a welcome e-mail with the link to the switching guide. Clicking "Help" at the top right hand corner of Gmail takes a user to the Gmail Help Centre. If the Gmail Help Centre does not answer a question, a user can contact Gmail. Alternatively, a user can also ask other users for help on Gmail Help Discussion, a Google Group for users to give and receive help concerning Gmail.

Retrieved from ""