History of Gmail

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Gmail by Google logo.

The public history of Gmail dates back to 2004. Gmail, a free, advertising-supported webmail service with support for Email clients, is a product from Google. Over its history, the Gmail interface has become integrated with many other products and services from the company, with basic integration as part of Google Account and specific integration points with services such as Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Buzz. It has also been made available as part of Google Apps.

Internal development[edit]

Gmail was a project started by Google developer Paul Buchheit, who had already explored the idea of web-based email in the 1990s, before the launch of Hotmail, while working on a personal email software project as a college student.[1] At Google, Buchheit first worked on Google Groups and when asked "to build some type of email or personalization product", he created the first version of Gmail within one day, reusing code from Google Groups.[1] Initially the software was available only internally as an email system for Google employees.[2] Buchheit recalled that the high volume of internal email at Google created "a very big need for search".[1] According to Google, the software had already been developed and used internally for "a number of years" when it was released to the public in 2004.[2]

Extended beta phase[edit]

Gmail began what ended up being a five-year beta phase in March 2004, when Google invited about 1,000 opinion leaders and then allowed them to invite their friends, and family members to become beta testers, with trials beginning on 21 March 2004.[3]

Gmail was made available to the public by Google on 1 April 2004, after extensive rumors of its existence during testing. Owing to the April Fool's Day release, the company's press release aroused skepticism in the technology world, especially since Google had been known to make April Fool's jokes in the past, such as PigeonRank. However, they explained that their real joke had been a press release saying that they would take offshoring to the extreme by putting employees in a "Google Copernicus Center" on the Moon. Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's vice-president of products, was quoted by BBC News as saying, "We are very serious about Gmail."[4][5][6][7]

Active users from the Blogger.com community were offered the chance to participate in the beta-testing on 20 April and later, Gmail members occasionally received "invites" which they could extend to their friends. One round of invitations was sent out on 1 May and another three invitations were given to all active members on 1 June. When Gmail increased the supply of invitations, the buying and selling market for Gmail invites collapsed.[8]

During the early months of the initial beta phase, Gmail's well-publicized feature set and the exclusive nature of the accounts caused the aftermarket price of Gmail invitations to skyrocket. According to PC World magazine, Gmail invitations were selling on eBay for as much as US$150, with some specific accounts being sold for several thousand dollars. After a new round of invitations in early June, the price for invitations fell down to between US$2–$5. Several philanthropic Gmail users have utilized services such as the now defunct GmailSwap to donate invitations to people who want them. On 28 June 2004, Google amended its policy to forbid the selling of registered accounts.[9]

In January 2005, Security experts discovered a critical flaw in the handling of Gmail messages that would allow hackers to easily access private e-mails from any Gmail user's account. This was posted with detailed information to popular technology site Slashdot at 9:23 a.m. PST on 12 January 2005. On 13 January 2005, developers at Gmail announced that they had fixed the problem and that the security flaw had been patched. Despite Gmail's status as a beta application, concerns were raised among some users who were using Gmail as their primary mail account.[10] On 1 April 2005, Exactly one year after the initial release, Gmail increased the mailbox size to 2 GB, advertising it as 2GB plus and introduced some other new features, including formatted editing which gave users the option of sending messages in HTML or plain text.

On 7 June 2005, The Gmail Invitation Spooler was deactivated by the site owner, following a direct request from the Gmail product manager to shut it down. The service was featured in Popular Science magazine and had given out over 1.2 million Gmail accounts.[11]

As of 22 June 2005, Gmail's canonical URI changed from http://gmail.google.com/gmail/ to http://mail.google.com/mail/.[12] As of November 2010, those who typed in the former URI were redirected to the latter.

On 2 November 2006, Google began offering a mobile-application based version of its Gmail product for mobile phones capable of running Java applications. In addition, Sprint announced separately that it would make the application available from its Vision and Power Vision homepages, preloaded onto some new Sprint phones. The application gives Gmail its own custom menu system and the site displays attachments, such as photos and documents in the application.[13][14]

On 28 January 2007, Google Docs & Spreadsheets was integrated with Gmail, providing the capability to open attached Microsoft Word DOC files directly from Gmail.[15] On 24 October 2007, Google announced that IMAP was available for all accounts, including Google Apps for your Domain.[16] On 8 December 2008, Google added a to-do list to Gmail. When the new Tasks feature is enabled, a box shows up on top of the Gmail window. In it, users can add, reorder and delete tasks. It is also possible to assign a due date to each action and even convert e-mails into tasks.[17] On 24 February 2009, Gmail suffered a two and a half hour outage, affecting 100 million accounts.[18] On 7 July 2009, Gmail completed its beta status in a move to attract more business use of the service.[19][20] On 1 Sept 2009, Gmail service was interrupted for several hours.[21]

Gmail officially exited beta status on 7 July 2009.[19][20]

Name change in Europe[edit]

The Google Mail logo in 2005, distinct from its Gmail logo.
The Google Mail logo in 2010

United Kingdom[edit]

On 19 October 2005 the UK version of Gmail was converted to Google Mail for reasons similar to those of Germany.[22] With the trademark dispute settled, Google reintroduced the Gmail name in the UK in September 2009 and on 3 May 2010 announced that the googlemail.com domain will be phased out.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Paul Buchheit on Gmail, AdSense and More". Google Blogoscoped. 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2013-11-23.  (quoting from: Jessica Livingston, Founders at Work, ISBN 978-1590597149)
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Danny. "Google Launches Gmail, Free Email Service". SearchEngineWatch.com. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  3. ^ The Google Story, pg 154, yr. 2005, David A. Vise, Mark Malseed
  4. ^ Google (2004-04-01). "Google Gets the Message, Launches Gmail". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  5. ^ Google (2002-04-01). "PigeonRank: "The technology behind Google's great results"". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  6. ^ Google (2004-04-01). "Google Copernicus Center is hiring". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  7. ^ BBC News Online (2004-04-01). "Timing makes Google an April Fool". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  8. ^ Ulbrich, Chris. "Gmail Invitation Prices Crash." Wired. June 10, 2004. Retrieved on November 7, 2009.
  9. ^ Google (September 2008). "Gmail Program Policies". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  10. ^ Wally, Miachael (January 2005). "Gmail Messages Are Vulnerable To Interception". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  11. ^ "Gmail Invite Spooler Post-Mortem". 
  12. ^ Mathias Bynens (2005-06-25). "Google goes 301". Archived from the original on 2007-08-11. Retrieved 2007-11-25. 
  13. ^ Oswald, Ed (November 2006). "Google Offers Java-based Mobile Gmail". Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  14. ^ Needleman, Rafe (November 2006). "Google Mail goes mobile. RSS too.". Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  15. ^ Rogers, Garett (January 2007). "Gmail lets you open Word attachments in Google Docs". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  16. ^ Murray, David (October 2007). "Sync your inbox across devices with free IMAP". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  17. ^ Musil, Steven (December 2008). "Google gives Gmail users a to-do list". Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  18. ^ Gmail crash raises web services fears by Chris Nuttall in the Financial Times
  19. ^ a b Coleman, Keith (July 2009). "Gmail leaves beta, launches "Back to Beta" Labs feature". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  20. ^ a b Vanacore, Andrew (July 2009). "Gmail drops 'beta' label to woo business customer". Retrieved 2009-07-07. 
  21. ^ BBC NEWS | Technology | Engineer error knocks out Gmail
  22. ^ Google (October 2005). "Google Mail in the UK". Retrieved 2008-11-24. 
  23. ^ Bullock, Greg (May 2010). "Google Mail is becoming Gmail in the UK". Retrieved 4 May 2010. 

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