|Type of site||Webmail|
|Available language(s)||57 languages|
|Users||425 million (June 2012)|
|Created by||Paul Buchheit|
|Launched||April 1, 2004,10 years, 18 days|
|Alexa rank||8,402 (September 2013[update])|
Gmail is a free (gratis), advertising-supported email service provided by Google. Users may access Gmail as secure webmail, as well as via POP3 or IMAP4 protocols. Gmail initially started as an invitation-only beta release on April 1, 2004 and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at that time. The service was upgraded from beta status on July 7, 2009, along with the rest of the Google Apps suite.
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. Individual Gmail messages, including attachments, may be up to 25 MB. 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. Gmail runs on Google GFE/2.0 on Linux. As of June 2012[update], it is the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide.
- 1 Features
- 2 Security
- 3 Interface
- 4 History
- 5 Domain name history
- 6 Code changes
- 7 Reception
- 8 Competition
- 9 Criticism
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
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."
Users can buy additional storage, shared between Gmail, Google Drive and Google+ Photos, through a monthly subscription plan. Storage of up to 15 GB is free, and paid plans are available for up to 30 TB.
The Gmail Labs feature, introduced on June 5, 2008, 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.
In mid-2013, Google updated the Gmail inbox with tabs which allow the application to categorize the user's emails. The five tabs are: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. These tabs also appear in Gmail's mobile version. In addition to customization options, the entire update can be disabled, allowing users to return to the traditional inbox structure.
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. Users may tune the system to allow mail marked as spam to be handled in particular ways.
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. 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.
Social Network Integration
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. Buzz was launched with an automatic opt-in, causing an uproar in the Gmail community which led Google to quickly undo its initial moves. 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.
As of January 2014, Gmail allows users to send emails to people who have Google+ accounts, even if they don't have each other's email addresses.
Google Drive integration
Gmail integrates with Google Drive to allow users to view files received as attachments in supported formats using the Google Drive viewer. Also, attachments are previewed within the message itself, and clicking on the preview opens up a full-screen view of the file. Users can also save the attachments directly to Google Drive.
Google Voice in Gmail chat
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", 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. 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.
Gmail incorporates a search bar for searching emails. The search bar can also search contacts, files stored in Google Drive, events from Google Calendar, and Google Sites. It can also make web searches via Google Search. On May 21, 2012, Gmail improved the search functionality to include auto-complete predictions from the user's emails. 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').
As of October 2013, Gmail supports handwriting input for 75 languages after Google introduced the Transliteration, Input Method Editor (IME), and Virtual Keyboard input tools to Gmail's settings. The update allows Gmail users to switch between over 100 virtual keyboards and transliterations that support languages such as Hebrew, Thai, and Arabic.
Money transfer and payment options
At the Google I/O 2013 conference, held on May 15, 2013, Google announced a feature that allows Gmail users to send money as email attachments via Google Wallet. Google then explained in a blog post:
Google Wallet is now integrated with Gmail, so you can quickly and securely send money to friends and family directly within Gmail — even if they don’t have a Gmail address. It’s free to send money if your bank account is linked to Google Wallet or using your Google Wallet balance, and low fees apply to send money using your linked credit or debit card.
Google planned to roll out the feature "over the coming months" following the announcement.
Prior to the launch of the email attachment feature, the corporation's plan to introduce a physical Google Wallet card was publicized in 2012, but the project was abandoned due to logistical problems and following the departure of the head of the Wallet team in early May 2013. Following the Google I/O announcement, Google then reintroduced the card product in the US on November 21, 2013 as a debit card for Wallet accounts (the initial concept was a unifying card that could represent all of the user's credit cards)—the Digital Trends website described it as "essentially a standard debit card that you can use to pay with things using your Google balance." As of December 2013, the card was free to obtain and the shipping period was around 14 days.
Although email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird use TLS when sending email, it is not used when the email is sent from the Gmail servers to the destination domain's mail exchangers, unless supported, so at some stage the user's email message may still be transmitted in unencrypted plain text.
On March 20, 2014, Google announced the implementation of an enhancement of the overall security of Gmail in response to the Edward Snowden privacy revelations in 2013. An encrypted HTTPS connection will be used for the sending and receipt of all Gmail emails, and "every single email message you send or receive—100% of them—is encrypted while moving internally" through the corporation's systems.
Around 2007, Gmail had severe security issues which allowed a full account compromise via Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities affecting the google.com homepage or information disclosure through a file which was stored on Google's server and included all the Email contacts of the currently logged in user. The vulnerability was quickly patched after the initial disclosure on the Internet.
Gmail offers spam filtering: the system automatically deletes messages marked as spam after 30 days. Users can disable the spam-filtering system by creating a rule to make all messages skip the spam filter. POP3 users can only check the Spam folder manually via the web interface, as only emails sent to the Inbox can be retrieved via POP3. This is a technical limitation of POP3. Currently about 75% of email sent to Gmail accounts is filtered as spam.
IP addresses of webmail Gmail users are disguised in order to protect security.
Gmail automatically scans all incoming and outgoing e-mails for viruses in e-mail attachments. If a virus is found on an attachment the reader is trying to open, Gmail will try to remove the virus and open the cleaned attachment. Gmail also scans all outgoing attachments and will prevent the message from being sent if a virus is found. Gmail also does not allow users to send or receive executable files or archives containing executable files.
On June 5, 2012, a new security feature was introduced to protect users from state-sponsored attacks. Whenever Google analysis 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."
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. In 2008, Fox left Gmail for a position at Yahoo.
The idea for Gmail was pitched by Rajen Sheth during an interview with Google, 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. IMAP support was added on October 24, 2007.
Domain name history
As of June 22, 2005[update], Gmail's canonical URI changed from http://gmail.google.com/gmail/ to http://mail.google.com/mail/. starting in December 2012, those who typed in the former URI were redirected to the latter.
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.
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.
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.
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. In September 2006, Forbes magazine declared Gmail as the best webmail. In November 2006, Gmail received PC World's 4 star rating.
After Gmail's initial development and launch, many existing web mail services quickly increased their storage capacity.
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.
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.
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 and to 25 MB in June 2009.
Automated scanning of email content
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.
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.
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. A motion filed by Google's attorneys in the case concedes that Gmail users have "no legitimate expectation of privacy".
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. 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.
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."
Google updated its terms of service for Gmail in April 2014 to create full transparency for its users in regard to the scanning of email content. The relevant revision states: "Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored." A Google spokesperson explained that the corporation wishes for its policies "to be simple and easy for users to understand." In response to the update, Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, stated: "The really dangerous things that Google is doing are things like the information held in Analytics, cookies in advertising and the profiling that it is able to do on individual accounts". 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.
Other privacy issues
Gmail accounts of human rights activists in China were hacked in sophisticated attacks — thought to use phishing and exploit a vulnerability in Internet Explorer — 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.
The launch of Google Buzz as an opt-out social networking service 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
A new Gmail feature was launched in January 2014, whereby users can email people with Google+ accounts even though they do not know the email address of the recipient. Marc Rotenberg, President of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the feature "troubling". The new feature is enabled by default but can be disabled.
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. 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.
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. Other webmail services have different, often shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after four months.
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. 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."
In 2009, Google continued to experience outages across its network, leaving users without access to their email, calendars, and virtual files. 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.
Key outage dates include:
|Date||Outage details||Affected users|
|January 24, 2014||Gmail widespread outage.||Global outage that lasted approximately 50 minutes for most users.|
|September 23, 2013||Gmail outage||“less than 50 percent”|
|May 2, 8 and 13, 2013||Users in India, Middle East and South East Asia faced Gmail outage with an error 502|
|April 17, 2012||Gmail outage||5.25 million|
|February 27/28, 2011||Gmail outage. Gmail users after signing in found their Gmail inbox, contact empty.||1.5 million|
|September 24, 2009||Gmail outage. Gmail accounts were unavailable, users could not access their accounts.||Gmail did not mention exact number, in their blog they posted a 'small subset of users' were affected with this outage.|
|September 1, 2009||Gmail outage|
|May 14, 2009||Google network outage. For some users Gmail became extremely slow. In some cases, Google services were reported to have completely stopped working.|
|March 9, 2009||Gmail outage|
|August 7, 2008||Gmail and Google Apps outage. Accounts affected by a 502 error on login.|
Twenty-four hour lockdowns
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:
- "Receiving, deleting, or downloading large amounts of mail via POP or IMAP in a short period of time. If you're getting the error message, 'Lockdown in Sector 4,' you should be able to access Gmail again after waiting 24 hours."
- "Sending a large number of undeliverable messages (messages that bounce back)."
- "Using file-sharing or file-storage software, browser extensions, or third party software that automatically logs into your account."
- "Leaving multiple instances of Gmail open."
- "Browser-related issues. Please note that if you find your browser continually reloading while attempting to access your Inbox, it's probably a browser issue, and it may be necessary to clear your browser's cache and cookies."
On behalf of
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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". A number of Gmail users complained that this implementation was both a privacy concern and a professionalism problem.
On July 30, 2009, Gmail announced an update to resolve this issue. The updated custom 'From:' feature allows users to send messages from Gmail using a custom SMTP server, instead of Gmail's. 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.
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