Gmail

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Gmail
Gmail's logo
Web addressmail.google.com
Commercial?Yes
Type of siteWebmail
RegistrationRequired
Available language(s)57 languages[1]
Users425 million (June 2012)[2]
Content licenseProprietary
Written inJava and JavaScript[3][4]
OwnerGoogle
Created byPaul Buchheit
Launched1 April 2004; 9 years ago (2004-04-01)
Alexa rankIncrease 8,402 (September 2013)
Current statusOnline
 
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Gmail
Gmail's logo
Web addressmail.google.com
Commercial?Yes
Type of siteWebmail
RegistrationRequired
Available language(s)57 languages[1]
Users425 million (June 2012)[2]
Content licenseProprietary
Written inJava and JavaScript[3][4]
OwnerGoogle
Created byPaul Buchheit
Launched1 April 2004; 9 years ago (2004-04-01)
Alexa rankIncrease 8,402 (September 2013)
Current statusOnline

Gmail is a free (gratis), advertising-supported email service provided by Google.[5] Users may access Gmail as secure webmail,[6] as well as via POP3 or IMAP4 protocols.[7][8] Gmail initially started as an invitation-only beta release on April 1, 2004[9] and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at that time.[10] The service was upgraded from beta status on July 7, 2009, along with the rest of the Google Apps suite.[11][12]

With an initial storage capacity offer of 1 GB per user, Gmail significantly increased the webmail standard for free storage from the 2 to 4 MB its competitors such as Hotmail offered at that time.[13] Individual Gmail messages, including attachments, may be up to 25 MB,.[14] Gmail has a search-oriented interface and a "conversation view" similar to an Internet forum. Gmail is noted by web developers for its pioneering use of Ajax.[15] Gmail runs on Google GFE/2.0 on Linux.[16][17][18] As of June 2012, it is the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide.[2][19]

Features[edit]

Storage[edit]

Gmail's log-in page (November 2013)

On April 1, 2005, the first anniversary of Gmail, Google announced an increase from 1 GB. Georges Harik, the product management director for Gmail, stated that Google would "keep giving people more space forever."[20]

On April 24, 2012, Gmail announced the increase of free storage in Gmail from 7.5 GB to 10 GB ("and counting") as part of the launch of Google Drive.[21]

On May 13, 2013 Google announced the merge of their free storage across Gmail, Google Drive, & Google+ Photos allowing users up to 15GB of free storage to use across their accounts.[22]

As of September 2013, the Gmail service provides 15 GB of free storage per account.[23] Users can rent additional storage (shared between Picasa Web Albums, Google Drive and Gmail) from 100 GB (US$4.99/month) to 16 TB (US$799.99/month).

Gmail Labs[edit]

The Gmail Labs feature, introduced on June 5, 2008,[24] allows users to test new or experimental features of Gmail, such as bookmarking of important email messages or custom keyboard shortcuts. Users can enable or disable Labs features selectively and provide feedback about each of them. This allows Gmail engineers to obtain user input about new features to improve them and also to assess their popularity and whether they merit developing into regular Gmail features. All Labs features are experimental and are subject to termination at any time.[25]

Spam filter[edit]

Gmail's spam filtering features a community-driven system: when any user marks an email as spam, this provides information to help the system identify similar future messages for all Gmail users.[26][27] Users may tune the system to allow mail marked as spam to be handled in particular ways.[26]

Gmail Mobile[edit]

Gmail Mobile is a version of Google's Gmail email service. It was released on December 16, 2005, and is available in more than 40 languages.[28] It is a free service, developed to provide access to Gmail from mobile devices such as cell phones, or smartphones. Gmail Mobile offers many of the features as Gmail delivered effectively to smaller, mobile screens. Users have the ability to compose, read, archive, reply, forward, mark unread, add a star, add custom labels or trash email messages.[29]

On September 22, 2009 Google brought Push Mail support to its Gmail service using Google Sync for iPhone and iPod Touch platforms.[30][31]

In order to use the service a user will need a Gmail account and a mobile device that meets the following requirements:

Social networking[edit]

On February 9, 2010, Google commenced their new service, Google Buzz, which integrated with Gmail allowing users to share links and media, as well as status updates.[33] Buzz was launched with an automatic opt-in, causing an uproar in the Gmail community which led Google to quickly undo its initial moves.[34] Buzz was discontinued in December 2011 in favor of Google+.

Google+, which was launched on June 28, 2011 as Google's latest social networking application, integrates further into Gmail than Google Buzz: Google+ profile icons appear in the headers of emails received in Gmail and Google+ circles appear in the Contacts section. As of August 2012, Google+ Hangouts allows multi-user videoconferencing for users, replacing Gmail's video chat function.[citation needed]

Google Voice in Gmail chat[edit]

In August 2010, Google released a plugin that provides integrated telephone service within Gmail's Google Chat interface. This service initially lacked an official name, with Google referring to it as "Google Voice in Gmail chat" and also "Call Phones in Gmail",[35][36][37] but is now called Google Video and Voice Chat. The service allows people to make free calls from their Gmail account to U.S. and Canada, at least through the end of 2012.[38] Gmail account users can also call other countries on a fee basis. The service logged over 1 million calls in 24 hours on 26 August 2010.[39]

Google Voice multi-way videoconferencing (with support for document sharing) is now integrated with Google+ Hangouts.[40]

Offline Google Mail[edit]

On August 31, 2011, it was announced on the Official Gmail Blog that Offline Google Mail was launched as a Chrome web app at the Google Chrome Web Store. This HTML5-powered app is based on the Gmail web app on tablets.

On April 11, 2011, Google engineer Sundar Pichai revealed that Google employees had been testing the app together with offline versions of Google Docs and Google Calendar for months and that the apps would be launched in the summer of 2011.[41]

Gmail Search[edit]

Gmail has an integrated search function that resembles Google Search but only searches a user's Gmail account. On May 21, 2012, Gmail improved their search functionality to include autocomplete predictions from the user's email content.[42] As with a web search, Gmail's search functionality does not support searching for word fragments (also known as 'substring search'), although it does perform partial-string stemming (e.g. searching for 'month' will turn up an email that includes the term 'months').[43]

Extra security features[edit]

When creating a Gmail account, users are asked to provide a recovery email address—to allow them to reset their password if they have forgotten it, or if their account is hacked. In some countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom and India, Google may also require one-time use of a mobile phone number to send an account validation code by SMS text messaging or voice message when creating a new account.[44][45]

Google also offers a 2-step verification option—for extra security against hacking—that requests a validation code each time the user logs into their Google account. The code is either generated by an application ("Google Authenticator") or received from Google as an SMS text message, a voice message, or an email to another account.[46] Trusted devices can be "marked" to skip this 2-step log-on authentication.[47] When this feature is switched on, software that cannot provide the validation code (e.g. IMAP and POP3 clients) must use a unique 16-character alphanumeric password generated by Google instead of the user's normal password.[48][49]

Security Warnings[edit]

On June 5, 2012, a new security feature was introduced to protect users from state-sponsored attacks. Whenever Google analyses indicate that a government has attempted to compromise an account, Gmail will display a notice that reads "Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be trying to compromise your account or computer".[50][51]

Money Transfer[edit]

At Google I/O 2013 on May 15, 2013, Google announced a feature, which allows Gmail users to send money via Google Wallet as email attachments. Google planned to roll out the feature "over the coming months".[52]

Interface[edit]

The Gmail user interface differs from other Webmail systems with its focus on search and its "conversation view" of email, grouping several replies onto a single page. Gmail's user-experience designer, Kevin Fox, intended users to feel as if they were always on one page and just changing things on that page, rather than having to navigate to other places.[53] In 2008, Fox left Gmail for a position at Yahoo.[54]

History[edit]

The idea for Gmail was pitched by Rajen Sheth during an interview with Google,[55] and went on to be developed by Paul Buchheit several years before it was announced to the public. Initially the email client was available for use only by Google employees internally. Google announced Gmail to the public on April 1, 2004.[56] IMAP support was added on October 24, 2007.[7]

Domain name history[edit]

As of June 22, 2005 (2005-06-22), Gmail's canonical URI changed from http://gmail.google.com/gmail/ to http://mail.google.com/mail/.[57] As of December 2012, those who typed in the former URI were redirected to the latter.

April Fools' jokes[edit]

On April Fools' Day 2007, Google made fun of paper-based archiving by introducing "Gmail Paper", where a user could click a button and Gmail would purportedly mail an ad-supported paper copy email archive for free.[58]

On April Fools' Day 2008, Google introduced a fake service, "Gmail Custom Time", which claimed to allow a user to send up to ten emails per year with forged timestamps. The hoax stated that by bending spacetime on the Google servers, the emails actually get routed through the fourth dimension of time itself before reaching their intended recipient.[59][60]

On April Fools' Day 2009, Google introduced a service called Gmail Autopilot by CADIE.[61] According to Google, the service purported to automatically read and respond to emails for the user. It appeared to work by analyzing messages for the emotions expressed in the message and either providing advice to the user or automatically responding to the message.

On April Fools' Day 2011, Google introduced a service called Gmail Motion which allowed users to navigate emails, send and even dictate messages through the user's physical actions using webcams. For example, to send an email, the user would perform the action of licking a stamp, and posting it. After the user signed up, they would be directed to an "April Fools'" message.[62][63]

On April Fools' Day 2012, Google introduced a service called Gmail Tap, an application for Android and iOS which claimed to double typing speed with a revolutionary new keyboard.[64] The system involves a keyboard with three keys: Morse code "dash" and "dot", and a spacebar (along with backspace). Shortly before midnight, on March 31, 2012 Gmail Tap was added, an Android Application utilizing Morse Code instead of the onscreen keyboard. Selecting Download App for Your Phone produced the message: "Oops! Gmail Tap is a bit too popular right now. We suggest you try downloading it again on April 2nd."[65][66]

On April Fools' Day 2013, Google introduced a service known as Gmail Blue, where an application that would allow Gmail to have additional features and become totally blue colored.[67]

Code changes[edit]

Gmail's interface was rewritten in the middle of 2007 and was released to users starting on October 29, 2007. The new version had a redesigned contacts section, quick contacts box and chat popups, which were added to names in the message list as well as the contact list. The contacts application is integrated into other Google services, such as Google Docs. Users granted access to the new version were given a link at the top-right corner which read "Newer Version". As of December 2007, most new registrations in English (US) along with most pre-existing accounts are given the new interface by default when supported.[3][68][69][70]

These coding changes mean that only users of Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 2, Google Chrome and Safari 3.0 (or more recent versions) are officially supported by Gmail and can fully use the new code. Opera 9.5 and more recent versions are not officially tested but are expected to "work with all of Gmail's features". Internet Explorer 5.5+, Netscape 7.1+, Mozilla 1.4+, Firefox 0.8, Safari 1.3 and some other browsers will give limited functionality. Other browsers may be redirected to the basic-HTML-only version of Gmail.[3][71][72][73][74]

During the week of January 18, 2008, Google released an update that changed the way Gmail loads JavaScript. This caused the failure of some third-party extensions.[75]

On December 12, 2008, Gmail added support for faster PDF viewing within the browser.[76]

When Internet Explorer 10 had been available for several months, Google removed support for Google Apps for Internet Explorer 8 and older versions.[77]

Gmail was one of the first Google projects to begin using Closure Library, part of Closure Tools, which were later open sourced. Much of the core library was developed concurrently with the 2008 update.[78]

Criticism[edit]

Privacy[edit]

Google automatically scans emails to add context-sensitive advertisements to them and to filter spam. Privacy advocates raised concerns that the plan involved scanning their personal, private emails and that this was a security problem. Allowing email content to be read, even by a computer, raises the risk that the expectation of privacy in email will be reduced. Furthermore, email that non-subscribers choose to send to Gmail accounts is scanned by Gmail as well, even though those senders never agreed to Gmail's terms of service or privacy policy. Google can change its privacy policy unilaterally and Google is technically able to cross-reference cookies across its information-rich product line to make dossiers on individuals. However, most email systems make use of server-side content scanning in order to check for spam,[79][80][81] and of course any email system must access email content merely to display it to the user.

In 2004, privacy advocates also regard the lack of disclosed data retention and correlation policies as problematic. Google has the ability to combine information contained in a person's email messages with information from Internet searches. Google has not confirmed how long such information is kept or how it can be used. One of the concerns is that it could be of interest to law enforcement agencies. More than 30 privacy and civil liberties organizations have urged Google to suspend Gmail service until these issues are resolved.[82]

Gmail's privacy policy used to contain the clause: "residual copies of deleted messages and accounts may take up to 60 days to be deleted from our active servers and may remain in our offline backup systems". However, this statement does not appear in Gmail's current privacy policy. Less specifically, Google has stated that they will "make reasonable efforts to remove deleted information from our systems as quickly as is practical."[83][84]

Google defends its position by citing their use of email-scanning to the user's benefit. Google states that Gmail refrains from displaying ads next to potentially sensitive messages such as those that mention tragedy, catastrophe, or death.[85]

Gmail accounts of human rights activists in China were hacked in sophisticated attacks — thought to use phishing and exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer[86][87][88] — in late 2009. Any (web mail or other) mail system which stores and retains user's email contents is an attractive target for such attacks, but Gmail is popular with security-conscious users because of its early HTTPS secure (encrypted) connection support, and its more-recent HTTPS-only default setting.[6][89]

The launch of Google Buzz as an opt-out social network immediately drew criticism for violating user privacy because it automatically allowed Gmail users' contacts to view their other contacts. Buzz was discontinued in December 2011.[90][91]

In March 2011 a former Gmail user in Texas sued Google, claiming that its Gmail service violates users' privacy by scanning e-mail messages to serve relevant ads.[92]

In July 2012, some California residents filed two class action lawsuits against Google and Yahoo! claiming that they illegally intercept emails sent by individual non-Gmail or non-Yahoo! subscribers to Gmail and Yahoo! subscribers without their knowledge, consent or permission.[93] A motion filed by Google's attorneys in the case concedes that Gmail users have "no legitimate expectation of privacy".[94]

A court filing uncovered by advocacy group Consumer Watchdog in August 2013 revealed that Google stated in a court filing that no "reasonable expectation" exists among Gmail users in regard to the assured confidentiality of their emails.[95] In response to a lawsuit filed in May 2013, Google explained:

"... all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing ... Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery.[95]

A Google spokesperson stated to the media on August 15, 2013 that the corporation takes the privacy and security concerns of Gmail users "very seriously."[95]

In December 2013, Gmail made changes in how images are displayed, to improve protection against insecure content and (by default) remove the necessity for recipients to click the "display images" confirmation.[96] Gmail now serves all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers. It also removed the ability for email marketers to track IP, user agent, if it was a mobile open or which mobile device was used.[97] At the same time, the default behavior was changed to show images without user confirmation, thereby enabling senders to track the time when an email is first opened by the recipient, by inserting tracking pixels.[98] While media such as Wired criticized the change as weakening user privacy, email marketing service provider MailChimp welcomed the improved capability to track previously invisible email subscribers.[98]

Technical limitations[edit]

Gmail does not allow users to send or receive executable files or archives containing executable files if it recognizes the file extension as one used for executable files or archives.[99][100]

By design, Gmail does not deliver all of a user's emails. When downloading mail through POP or IMAP access, Gmail fails to deliver messages that users have sent to themselves if the client has a copy of it already.[101] It also does not deliver to a user's inbox (via any access interface) those messages that users have sent to mailing lists and which they might expect to receive back via the mailing list.[102]

Gmail normally sorts email only by conversations (threads), which can be a problem for large conversations. For example, if a user sends a query to a large group of people, all of the responses are stored in a single conversation that is impossible to break apart. There is no way to search for responses from one user without getting the entire conversation. While deletion of individual emails is possible, most operations, such as archiving and labeling, can be performed only on whole conversations. Conversations cannot be split up or combined. As a result of complaints from some users, Google made conversation view optional starting September 29, 2010, but there is currently no method to split individual conversations.

Google may terminate a Gmail account after nine months of inactivity.[103] Other webmail services have different, often shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after four months.[104][105]

Outages[edit]

Gmail has been unavailable on several occasions. On February 24, 2009, the Gmail service was offline for 2 hours and 30 minutes, preventing millions of users from accessing their accounts. People who rely entirely on Gmail for business purposes complained about these outages.[106][107] Another outage occurred on September 1, 2009. Later that day, a Google vice president, Ben Treynor, explained that the problem, which ultimately resulted in about 100 minutes of outage, was caused by overloaded routers, triggered by a routine configuration change which added more router load than expected. Treynor wrote, "Gmail remains more than 99.9% available to all users, and we're committed to keeping events like today's notable for their rarity."[108][109]

In 2009, Google continued to experience outages across its network, leaving users without access to their email, calendars, and virtual files.[110] Gmail faced another downtime on March 2, 2013 before Noon Time for many of its users. It took 16 minutes for Google to recover from this outage. Gmail on mobile and Google's Apps Status Dashboard were the other two experienced the same issue during the time.[111]

Key outage dates include:

DateOutage detailsAffected users
September 23, 2013Gmail outage[112]“less than 50 percent”[113]
May 2, 8 and 13, 2013Users in India, Middle East and South East Asia faced Gmail outage with an error 502[114][115][116]
April 17, 2012Gmail outage[117]5.25 million[118]
February 27/28, 2011Gmail outage. Gmail users after signing in found their Gmail inbox, contact empty.[119]1.5 million[120]
September 24, 2009Gmail outage. Gmail accounts were unavailable, users could not access their accounts.[121]Gmail did not mention exact number, in their blog they posted a 'small subset of users' were affected with this outage.[121]
September 1, 2009Gmail outage[110]
May 14, 2009Google network outage. For some users Gmail became extremely slow. In some cases, Google services were reported to have completely stopped working.[122]
March 9, 2009Gmail outage[110]
August 7, 2008Gmail and Google Apps outage. Accounts affected by a 502 error on login.[123]

Twenty-four hour lockdowns[edit]

If an algorithm detects what Google calls "abnormal usage that may indicate that your account has been compromised", the account can be automatically locked down for between one minute and 24 hours, depending on the type of activity detected. Listed reasons for a lock-down include:[124]

On behalf of[edit]

Prior to July 2009, any email sent through the Gmail interface included the Gmail.com address as the "sender", even if it was sent with a custom email address as "from". For example, an email sent with an external "from" address using Gmail could be displayed to a receiving email client user as From user@gmail.com on behalf of user@OtherDomainEmailAddress.com (the display used by versions of Microsoft Outlook). By exposing the Gmail address, Google claimed that this would "help prevent mail from being marked as spam".[125] A number of Gmail users complained that this implementation was both a privacy concern and a professionalism problem.[126]

On July 30, 2009, Gmail announced an update to resolve this issue.[127] The updated custom 'From:' feature allows users to send messages from Gmail using a custom SMTP server, instead of Gmail's.[128] However, the issue is still present for users whose custom email address is a second Gmail account, rather than an account on a separate domain.[129]

Reception[edit]

Awards[edit]

Gmail was ranked second in PC World's "100 Best Products of 2005", behind Mozilla Firefox. Gmail also won 'Honorable Mention' in the Bottom Line Design Awards 2005.[130][131] In September 2006, Forbes magazine declared Gmail as the best webmail.[132] In November 2006, Gmail received PC World's 4 star rating.[133]

Trademark disputes[edit]

Germany[edit]

The former Google Mail logo
The present Google Mail logo

On July 4, 2005 Google announced that Gmail Deutschland would be rebranded as Google Mail. The domain gmail.com became unavailable in Germany due to trademark disputes, in which cases users must use the domain googlemail.com.[134] From that point forward, visitors originating from an IP address determined to be in Germany would be forwarded to googlemail.com where they could obtain an email address containing the new domain.[135]

The domains are interchangeable so users obliged to use the googlemail.com domain are unable to select addresses already chosen by gmail.com users.[135] Inbound emails sent to either googlemail.com or gmail.com addresses will reach the user. When registering for an online service, Google Mail users must use the googlemail.com form of their email address to ensure that any administrative emails they send to the service, such as confirmation messages, are recognized.[135]

The German naming issue is due to a trademark dispute between Google and Daniel Giersch, who owns a German company called "G-mail" which provides the service of printing out email from senders and sending the print-out via postal mail to the intended recipients. On January 30, 2007, the EU's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market ruled in favor of Giersch.[136]

Google spoofed "offering" the same service in the Gmail Paper April Fool's Day joke in 2007.[137]

On April 13, 2012, Google received the right to the Gmail trademark in Germany. On this day the gmail.de domain and the Gmail trademark were transferred to Google.[138]

Poland[edit]

In February 2007 Google filed legal action against the owners of gmail.pl, a poet group known in full as Grupa Młodych Artystów i Literatów abbreviated GMAiL (literally, "Group of Young Artists and Writers").[139] This lawsuit was lost but the website no longer exists.[140]

Russian Federation[edit]

A Russian paid mail redirect service called gmail.ru owns the "Gmail" trademark in the Russian Federation.[141]

The gmail.ru domain name dates from January 27, 2003.[142]

United Kingdom[edit]

On October 19, 2005, Google voluntarily converted the United Kingdom version of Gmail to Google Mail because of a dispute with the UK company Independent International Investment Research.[143][144]

Users who registered before the switch to Google Mail were able to keep their Gmail address, although the Gmail logo was replaced with a Google Mail logo. Users who signed up after the name change receive a googlemail.com address, although a reverse of either in the sent email will still deliver it to the same place.

In September 2009 Google began to change the branding of UK accounts back to Gmail following the resolution of the trademark dispute.[145]

On May 3, 2010, Google announced that they would start to phase out the googlemail.com domain in the UK. Existing users will get the option to switch to gmail.com, while new users will be given a gmail.com address by default.[146] This also required Android phone users to perform a factory reset (requiring a back-up to prevent data loss) to restore phone functionality.[147]

Competition[edit]

After Gmail's initial development and launch, many existing web mail services quickly increased their storage capacity.[148]

For example, Hotmail increased space for some users from 2 MB to 25 MB, with 250 MB after 30 days, and 2 GB for Hotmail Plus accounts. Yahoo! Mail went from 4 MB to 100 MB and 2 GB for Yahoo! Mail Plus accounts. Yahoo! Mail storage then increased to 250 MB and in late April 2005 to 1 GB. Yahoo! Mail announced that it would be providing "unlimited" storage to all its users in March 2007 and began providing it in May 2007.[149]

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 noted in the case of MSN's Hotmail, which upgraded its email storage from 250 MB to the new Windows Live Hotmail which includes 5 GB of storage that expands if necessary. In November 2006, MSN Hotmail upgraded all free accounts to 1 GB of storage.[150]

In June 2005, AOL started providing all AIM screen names with their own email accounts with 2 GB of storage.[151]


As well as increasing storage limits following the launch of Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail also enhanced their email interfaces. During 2005, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail matched Gmail's attachment size of 10 MB. Following the footsteps of Gmail, Yahoo! launched the Yahoo! Mail Beta service and Microsoft launched Windows Live Hotmail, both incorporating Ajax interfaces. Google increased the maximum attachment size to 20 MB in May 2007[152] and to 25 MB in June 2009.[153]

See also[edit]

Third party software[edit]

References[edit]

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