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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Google teases few in big e-mail debut

By Burt Lum

It took a while, but I finally got invited to try Google's new e-mail service, Gmail, at gmail.google.com.

What's the big deal? E-mail has been around since the dawn of the Internet, and everyone already has an account. Why would anyone want another one?

I've had a free Yahoo account for years, and never desired one from Hotmail. Maybe getting a new Gmail account is just a flavor of the month ... or maybe it's the 1GB of storage they provide!

For the time being, Gmail is in trial mode. Several thousand people were invited as "testers" to provide feedback before the service is made available to the broader public. This might add to Google's pre-IPO media buzz.

Unfortunately, the ability to invite is not passed on, so I cannot extend the Gmail offer. Nevertheless, it has created a demand, and Gmail invitations have appeared on Ebay.

The greatest initial appeal is by far the 1GB storage limit on your mailbox, unprecedented for free Web-based accounts (assuming this is carried forward for the general public).

By comparison, Yahoo provides 4MB, and Hotmail offers 2MB of storage. With 1GB of storage, you would feel comfortable not only using the account but also storing all your e-mails there.

Plus, the e-mails are referenced as threaded discussions, much like forum and newsgroup discussions. Google's great search technology will also come into play as a means to locate e-mails, as opposed to the indexing currently available on e-mail client packages.

In order to pay for the service, Google intends to place ads on e-mail pages, much like their Adworks ads. Some criticism has surfaced in the press about privacy concerns when Google scans messages to select related ads. Google claims this is done purely by software, without human intervention.

Overall, I found the service to be fast and feature-rich for a Web-based service.

It did lack features I have grown accustomed to in Outlook Express, like signatures and contact lists. But for the price, it is still worth it.

You can find me testing the service at bytemarks@gmail.com. ;-)

Burt Lum is one click away at www.roughtake.com.