Tech

Gmail 20th anniversary


When Gmail starts stupid press release Twenty years ago next week, many thought it was a scam. The service promises a massive 1 GB of storage, which is an exorbitant amount in the age of 15 MB inboxes. In an era when many inboxes are paid, it claims to be completely free. And then there’s the date: The service was announced on April Fool’s Day, signaling some kind of prank.

But soon, invitations to real Gmail betas started going out, and they became a must-have for a certain kind of familiar tech fan. In my nerdy high school, having one was your fastest ticket to the cool kids. surface. I remember trying to find one. I don’t know if I really need Gmail, it’s just that all my classmates say Gmail will change my life forever.

Teenagers are notorious for their drama, but Gmail really revolutionized email. It reimagines the functionality of our inbox and becomes a core part of our online identity. The service currently has an estimated 1.2 billion users (about 1/7 of the world’s population). Now, doing everything online is a reality. It often feels like Gmail has always been here and always will be.

But 20 years from now, I don’t know anyone who will be eager to open Gmail. Managing your inbox can often be a chore, and other messaging apps like Slack and WhatsApp have come to dominate the way we communicate online. Game-changing tools can sometimes feel like they’ve been sidelined. In another 20 years, will Gmail still be the center of our lives? Or will it and email become a thing of the past?

After the launch of Gmail, what most people remember most is the free storage space, while what Google remembers is the search function.

“If you think about the value proposition of Gmail when we started, it was lightning-fast search,” said Ilya Brown, vice president of Google Gmail. Brown said people were tired of email management. Ubiquitous, small inbox storage space. You have to keep deleting emails to make room for new ones. Gmail’s huge storage limit solves this problem.

But Gmail’s solution also creates a new problem: Now you have too many emails. This is where Google’s search power comes in. If you never delete email, fast and reliable hunting is a must.

If you never delete emails, a fast and reliable search is a must

Over time, Google continued to tweak Gmail’s formula. In 2008, Google introduced themes to make Gmail’s inbox more unique than its competitors. (The little tea-drinking fox and I have been best friends ever since.) You can now get 15GB of free storage. Gmail went mobile in the mid-2000s. Google has also made some smaller changes, like adding email priority, smart replies, summary cards, and a one-click button for unsubscribing from newsletters you definitely don’t remember signing up for.

Even with all the changes, Gmail basically feels the same. (However, I promise if you look at Old picture of Gmailyou’d be surprised how many have changed. ) This may have something to do with the fact that there have been few major or disruptive changes over the years. At launch, Google will be free to change the email model to its liking.For decades, the company had to be careful not to Disrupt the world’s most widely used email service.

“What we attach great importance to is serving those [Gmail users] “With a product like Gmail, people have high expectations for reliability,” said Maria Fernandez Guajardo, senior director and product manager at Gmail. “While Google is keen to try it out, the company must be careful when rolling out any new features and explaining how to use them.” Be extremely careful.” They can affect the product.

Google brought Gmail to mobile devices in the mid-2000s.
Photo: Fabian Sommer / Image Alliance via Getty Images

That’s probably why Google has made few major changes over the years. Even though online communication is accelerated through DMs, group chats, and corporate messaging tools, much of it happens around and outside of Gmail. Email still has its place, but it’s no longer the primary way we communicate. I used to open Gmail in my browser and chat with my friends and colleagues through Gchat. Now, I live in Slack, Gmail aside.

When you have enough storage space without deleting anything, you can record your life unlimitedly. Packages, receipts, itineraries from past trips, messages from loved ones, photos, appointments, documents – you just label them, archive them, and find them later.

A lot of it is just fragments, but there are also special moments mixed in there. When I moved abroad in my 20s, email was how I stayed in touch with my parents. Now that they are gone, I’m happy to capture the love in Gmail. When I searched for these emails, it felt like I was traveling through time. I saw an old college internship application and made a face at my old resume. There were silly e-cards from my high school friends. The creepiest breakup email I ever got when I was first truly heartbroken.The whole battle plan to defeat Ticketmaster with friends is to hamilton Tickets, little things that instantly transport me to another place in my life.

past, present.
Image: Google

Nowadays, most communication takes place via text or social media DMs, which is a decentralized communication network, meaning it is more disposable. Searching through DM isn’t as easy as searching in your inbox. Slack requires you to pay to access older messages if you want. It would be tedious to scroll through my TikTok DMs to find videos sent by friends if they didn’t happen within the past day or two. I often have the urge to take screenshots of chats I want to remember, only to have them get lost in my camera roll. Gmail’s archiving capabilities remain unparalleled.

Gmail is like the passport of the web

As Gmail became too slow for day-to-day communication, email became the “official” communication channel—a place to store the things you needed to have a searchable, tangible record. It loses its fun. I had to create a conservative email address because I was so embarrassed in high school.New parents often send email Their newbornboth for getting addresses and as a kind of digital baby book.

“We do realize that Gmail is almost like an identity. It’s almost like a representation of you to the outside world,” Brown said. “How do we help identity develop over time? [Gmail] “Will the number of users increase over time? We don’t have a solution yet, but we’re always thinking about it.”

Gmail is like a passport to the web. Whenever I create a new account for a website or service, it is tied to my Gmail. Usually, it also doubles as my username. My Gmail is my ticket to all my apps, health care, taxes, bank accounts—my entire digital life. If I’m locked out and can’t access anything, I go to Gmail and sign back in. I may no longer be excited to open Gmail, but my Gmail password is still the most important password in my account. Life.

Sometimes I wake up with 100 newsletters and marketing emails and have the urge to burn them all and start over in the calm, anonymous inbox. But the reality is that too much has been lost. I’ve moved four times in 10 years, but my email has remained the same. Every day, I have a friend delete their account on social media, but no one steps up and announces they are giving up email. (Will Slack and TikTok be around in 20 years??) I imagine setting up a new email to everyone There’s no doubt that Gmail is here to stay; what I’m not so sure about is what my relationship with it will be.

Google appears to be aware of this contradiction, saying it wants to make email less laborious — and spill some of that initial joy back into your inbox.

No one stood up and announced they were giving up email

“We want to think about, you know, different enjoyable moments that aren’t always related to the email itself,” Brown said. “Sometimes, these are things you don’t have to do or things that help you do things faster. matter.”

For example, if you email a coworker asking for coffee, Gmail’s AI might pop up recommendations for local coffee shops and place them on your Google Calendar. To me, this sounds like turning Gmail into a personal assistant or digital librarian in my life. It’s still some form of managing the endless archives in my life, but maybe that’s what email is now. Maybe we can’t reinvent the inbox—just make it less scary to manage.



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