Gmail’s 15th birthday: Gmail will stay relevant in our lives as much as it did 15 years ago

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New Delhi | Published: April 2, 2019 2:18:29 PM

Gmail was launched on the April Fool's Day in 2004 and today, it's unstoppable

Gmail has turned 15 this year and Google is celebrating its journey of revolutionising emails. CEO Sundar Pichai wrote a heartfelt note to commemorate the birthday of the email service that was launched in 2004. In his blog post, Pichai outlined some of the biggest achievements Google has earned to weed out spam, offer greater controls to the users, and make Gmail as the primary service for emails on Android phones.

The Journey

Launched on April 1, 2004, Pichai has noted, Gmail offered 1GB of cloud storage that everyone took for an April Fool’s joke because of the timing. At the time, there was hardly any other email client that gave away so much space as it was. But it was not quite friendly initially as people could sign up for Gmail only if they have an invite, which used to be sold on eBay for good money. However, Google opened Gmail for the public in 2007 when email services such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail boomed.

Unlike other services, Gmail had allowed users to introduce themselves to the world of cloud storage that did away with the need to store emails on local storage. Of course, 1GB of storage available as a part of the standard account facilities was a lot back in 2004, but it was not all that lured users to join Gmail. A lot of ‘first’ features such as threaded emails, an improved search, attachments of up to 25MB, and an organised look, to say the least.

Gmail was also the testbed for many services Google piloted to see the reception. GChat, one of the first instant messaging services, was introduced as a Gmail feature. Over the years, GChat transformed into Hangouts, which is now undergoing a transition to become a corporate-centric chat service bundled with G Suite plans. Gmail was becoming inevitably big by the day, which led Google to integrate into almost all of its products, such as Google Tasks, Google Calendar, and more.

More Products, More Complications

Of course, Gmail even saw the birth of a slew of products that Google miserably failed to make a part of people’s lives. For example, when Orkut was shuttered, Google came up with Google+ to counter Facebook and Twitter – social media services that have encompassed a large fraction of the Internet. Google Allo followed the course to join other Google services. But the Mountain View-based giant has to pull the plug on both the services due to a dismal reception.

One thing that trailed the launch of new services by Google and their overgrowing cross-integration was the compromise of privacy. For example, Google+ was integrated with Gmail to let users access the services of both the services without having to make separate accounts. This also meant the users could email an unknown person via their Google+ profile.

And this was a modicum of the concerns centring privacy. Google confirmed that it had been scanning emails of all the users to generate a data report that is shared with advertisers. Of course, nothing is free in the world and Gmail users were bartering their private conversations. Later in 2017, Google faced a massive backlash across the globe for violating its users’ privacy. The company then announced it will stop scanning emails and will solely rely on the data gathered by its other services instead.

The End of the Lesser Ones

Gmail was growing more than the company had imagined, which tipped Google an idea to make things more streamlined with the help of machine learning and AI. It launched Inbox, an extension to Gmail, that let the users organise the emails and conversations better.

Last year, Google announced the biggest revamp to Gmail after many years, which included a fresh look inspired by the Material Design and enhanced services. With the new Gmail reaching a large number of users, Google eventually thought how the redesign rendered its Inbox app a mere extension. On September 12, 2018, Google announced it will discontinue Inbox on April 2. Google+ will take its last breath on Tuesday, as well.

What’s New?

Over fifteen years, Gmail touched a user base of 1.5 billion users globally, including the corporate offerings available under G Suite, which was introduced in 2006. It now gives 15GB as standard cloud storage space to the users, with an option to buy more from Google One plans that are relatively cheaper than the counterparts.

Smart Compose, one of the most impressive features Google launched, is now coming to more Android devices, as well as iOS devices, Pichai wrote in the blog post celebrating Gmail’s 15th birthday. It will also be available in more languages – Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

Gmail is also getting ‘Schedule Send’ feature to set a time for when you want the email to be sent. Starting Tuesday, April 2, Gmail will let you schedule your emails, much like what you could do on Inbox.

Also coming to Gmail is the integration of a reply feature that will let you send comments directly from Gmail without having to leave it for other services. To the emails that contain comment feeds, hotel recommendations, and more, you can respond without having to leave them.

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