Type of site
|Available in||72 languages|
|Created by||Paul Buchheit|
|Alexa rank||8,154 (December 2016[update])|
|Users||1 billion (February 2016)|
|Launched||April 1, 2004|
Gmail is a free, advertising-supported email service developed by Google. Users can access Gmail on the web and through the mobile apps for Android and iOS, as well as through third-party programs that synchronize email content through POP or IMAP protocols.
Gmail had an initial storage capacity offer of 1 GB per user, a significantly higher number than the 2 MB its competitors such as Hotmail offered at that time. Today, the service comes with 15 GB of free storage. Individual Gmail messages, including attachments, may be up to 25 MB. In order to send larger files, users can insert files from Google Drive into the message.
Google has stated that "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." Google also claims that Gmail refrains from displaying ads next to potentially sensitive messages, such as those that mention race, religion, sexual orientation, health, or financial statements.
As of February 2016, Gmail has one billion active users worldwide, and was the first app on the Google Play Store to hit one billion installations on Android devices. According to a 2014 estimate, 60% of mid-sized US companies, and 92% of startups, were using Gmail.
- 1 Features
- 2 Device support
- 3 Inbox by Gmail
- 4 Google Trips
- 5 Security
- 6 History
- 7 Social network integration
- 8 G Suite
- 9 Reception
- 10 Criticism
- 10.1 Privacy
- 10.2 April 2014 Terms of service update
- 10.3 Microsoft ad campaign against Google
- 10.4 Other privacy issues
- 10.5 Outages
- 10.6 On behalf of
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
On April 1, 2005, the first anniversary of Gmail, the limit was doubled to 2 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 among Gmail, Google Drive and Google Photos, through a monthly subscription plan. As of 2016, storage of up to 15 GB is free, and paid plans are available for up to 30 TB for personal use.
There are also storage limits to individual Gmail messages. One message, including all attachments, cannot be larger than 25 MB. In order to send larger files, users can insert files from Google Drive into the message.
The Gmail user interface initially differed from other webmail systems with its focus on search and conversation threading of emails, grouping several messages between two or more people onto a single page, an approach that was later copied by its competitors. Gmail's user interface 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.
Gmail's interface also makes use of 'labels' (tags) – that replace the conventional folders and provide a more flexible method of organizing email; filters for automatically organizing, deleting or forwarding incoming emails to other addresses; and importance markers for automatically marking messages as 'important'.
In May 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. In addition to customization options, the entire update can be disabled, allowing users to return to the traditional inbox structure.
In November 2011, Google began rolling out a redesign of its interface that "simplified" the look of Gmail into a more minimalist design to provide a more consistent look throughout its products and services as part of an overall Google design change. Major redesigned elements included a streamlined conversation view, configurable density of information, new higher-quality themes, a resizable navigation bar with always-visible labels and contacts, and better search. Users were able to preview the new interface design for months prior to the official release, as well as revert to the old interface, until March 2012, when Google discontinued the ability to revert and completed the transition to the new design for all users.
The Gmail Labs feature, introduced on June 5, 2008, allows users to test new or experimental features of Gmail. 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.
Popular features, like the "Undo Send" option, often "graduate" from Gmail Labs to become a formal setting in Gmail.
All Labs features are experimental and are subject to termination at any time.
In May 2012, Gmail improved the search functionality to include auto-complete predictions from the user's emails.
Gmail's search functionality does not support searching for word fragments (also known as 'substring search' or partial word search). Workarounds exist.
In August 2011, Google introduced Gmail Offline, an HTML5-powered app for providing access to the service while offline. Gmail Offline runs on the Google Chrome browser and can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store.
Google Voice in Gmail chat
In August 2010, Google released a plugin that provides integrated telephone service within Gmail's Google Chat interface. The feature initially lacked an official name, with Google referring to it as both "Google Voice in Gmail chat" and "Call Phones in Gmail". The service logged over one million calls in 24 hours.
As of March 2015, the Gmail interface supports 72 languages, including: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian (Bokmål), Odia, Polish, Punjabi, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog (Filipino), Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Zulu.
Language input styles
In October 2012, Google added over 100 virtual keyboards, transliterations, and input method editors to Gmail, enabling users different types of input styles for different languages in an effort to help users write in languages that aren't "limited by the language of your keyboard.”
In October 2013, Google added handwriting input support to Gmail.
Money transfer and payment options
In May 2013, Google announced the integration between Google Wallet and Gmail, which would allow Gmail users to send money as email attachments. Although the sender must use a Gmail account, the recipient does not need to be using a Gmail address. The feature has no transaction fees, but there are limits to amount of money that can be sent.
Gmail's "basic HTML" version will work on almost all browsers. The modern AJAX version is officially supported in the current and previous major releases of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari web browsers on a rolling basis.
In addition to the native apps on iOS and Android, users can access Gmail through the web browser on a mobile device.
In November 2014, Google introduced functionality in the Gmail Android app that enabled sending and receiving email from non-Gmail addresses (such as Yahoo! Mail and Outlook.com) through POP or IMAP.
In November 2016, Google redesigned the Gmail app for the iOS platform, bringing the first complete visual overhaul in "nearly four years". The update added much more use of colors, sleeker transitions, and the addition of several "highly-requested" features, including Undo Send, faster search with instant results and spelling suggestions, and Swipe to Archive/Delete.
Inbox by Gmail
In October 2014, Google introduced Inbox by Gmail on an invitation-only basis. Developed by the Gmail team, but serving as a "completely different type of inbox", the service is made to help users deal with the challenges of an active email. Citing issues such as distractions, difficulty in finding important information buried in messages, and receiving more emails than ever, Inbox by Gmail has several important differences from Gmail, including bundles that automatically sort emails of the same topic together, highlights that surface key information from messages, and reminders, assists, and snooze, that help the user in handling incoming emails at appropriate times.
Inbox by Gmail became publicly available in May 2015.
In September 2016, Google released Google Trips, an app that, based on information from a user's Gmail messages, automatically generates travel cards. A travel card contains itinerary details, such as plane tickets and car rentals, and recommends activities, food and drinks, and attractions based on location, time, and interests. The app also has offline functionality.
Google has supported secure HTTPS since the day it launched. In the beginning, it was only default on the login page, a reason that Google engineer Ariel Rideout stated was because HTTPS made "your mail slower". However, users could manually switch to secure HTTPS mode inside the inbox after logging in. In July 2008, Google simplified the ability to manually enable secure mode, with a toggle in the settings menu.
In January 2010, Google began rolling out HTTPS as the default for all users.
In June 2012, a new security feature was introduced to protect users from state-sponsored attacks. A banner will appear at the top of the page that warns users of an unauthorized account compromise.
In March 2014, Google announced that an encrypted HTTPS connection will be used for the sending and receiving of all Gmail emails, and "every single email message you send or receive —100% of them —is encrypted while moving internally" through the company's systems.
Whenever possible, Gmail uses transport layer security (TLS) to automatically encrypt emails sent and received. On the web and on Android devices, users can check if a message is encrypted by checking if the message has a closed or open red padlock.
Gmail automatically scans all incoming and outgoing e-mails for viruses in email attachments. For security reasons, some file types, including executables, are not allowed to be sent in emails.
Third-party encryption in transit
In Google's Transparency Report under the Safer email section, it provides information on the percentage of emails encrypted in transit between Gmail and third-party email providers.
Once enabled, users are required to verify their identity using a second method after entering their username and password when logging in on a new device. Common methods include entering a code sent to a user's mobile phone through a text message, entering a code using the Google Authenticator smartphone app, or by inserting a physical security key into the computer's USB port.
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."
Anti child pornography policy on Gmail
Google combats child pornography through Gmail's servers in conjunction with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to find children suffering abuse around the world. In collaboration with the NCMEC, Google creates a database of child pornography pictures. Each one of the images is given a unique numerical number known as a hash. Google then scans Gmail looking for the unique hashes. When suspicious images are located Google reports to the authorities.
The idea for Gmail was developed by Paul Buchheit several years before it was announced to the public. The project was known by the code name Caribou. During early development, the project was kept secret from most of Google's own engineers. This changed once the project became better and better, and by early 2004, almost everybody was using it to access the company's internal email system.
In October 2007, Google began a process of rewriting parts of the code that Gmail used, which would make the service faster and add new features, such as custom keyboard shortcuts and the ability to bookmark specific messages and email searches. Gmail also added IMAP support in October 2007.
Gmail exited the beta status on July 7, 2009.
Prior to December 2013, users had to approve to see images in emails, which acted as a security measure. This changed in December 2013, when Google, citing improved image handling, enabled images to be visible without user approval. Images will be routed through Google's secure proxy servers rather than the original external host servers. MarketingLand noted that the change to image handling means email marketers will no longer be able to track the recipient's IP address or information about what kind of device the recipient is using. However, Wired stated that the new change means senders can track the time when an email is first opened, as the initial loading of the images requires the system to make a "callback" to the original server.
In June 2012, Google announced that Gmail had 425 million active users globally.
In May 2015, Google announced that Gmail had 900 million active users, 75% of whom were using the service on mobile devices.
In the business sector, Quartz reported in August 2014 that, among 150 companies checked in three major categories in the United States (Fortune 50 largest companies, mid-size tech and media companies, and startup companies from the last Y Combinator incubator class), only one Fortune 50 company used Gmail - Google itself - while 60% of mid-sized companies and 92% of startup companies were using Gmail.
Social network integration
Gmail was integrated with Google+ in December 2011, as part of an effort to have all Google information across one Google account, with a centralized Google+ user profile. Backlash from the move caused Google to step back and remove the requirement of a Google+ user account, keeping only a private Google account without a public-facing profile, starting in July 2015.
In August 2006, Google announced Google Apps for Your Domain; special Google accounts with access to several of Google's services, with additional admin tools and custom email addresses, targeted at organizations, small businesses, large enterprises, educational institutions, and ISPs. The project was an expansion of the Gmail for Your Domain service launched in February 2006.
The service has gone through several rebrandings, eventually being currently branded G Suite. G Suite includes access to popular Google services, including Gmail, with additional advanced functionality, and more privacy, specifically developed for different types of organizations and businesses.
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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 to be the best webmail application for small businesses. In November 2006, Gmail received PC World's 4 star rating.
Google claims that Gmail refrains from displaying ads next to potentially sensitive messages, such as those that mention race, religion, sexual orientation, health, or financial statements.
Automated scanning of email content
In 2004, thirty-one privacy and civil liberties organizations wrote a letter calling upon Google to suspend its Gmail service until the privacy issues were adequately addressed. The letter also called upon Google to clarify its written information policies regarding data retention and data sharing among its business units. The organizations also voiced their concerns about Google's plan to scan the text of all incoming messages for the purposes of ad placement, noting that the scanning of confidential email for inserting third-party ad content violates the implicit trust of an email service provider.
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! email users to Gmail and Yahoo! recipients without the senders' knowledge, consent or permission. A motion filed by Google's attorneys in the case concedes that Gmail users have "no 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."
April 2014 Terms of service update
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".
Microsoft ad campaign against Google
In 2013, Microsoft launched an advertising campaign to attack Google for scanning email messages, arguing that most consumers are not aware that Google monitors their personal messages to deliver targeted ads. Microsoft claims that its email service Outlook does not scan the contents of messages and a Microsoft spokesperson called the issue of privacy "Google's kryptonite." In response, Google stated; "We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant ... No humans read your e-mail or Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or related information. An automated algorithm — similar to that used for features like Priority Inbox or spam filtering — determines which ads are shown.” The New York Times cites "Google supporters", who say that "Microsoft’s ads are distasteful, the last resort of a company that has been unsuccessful at competing against Google on the more noble battleground of products".
Other privacy issues
2010 attack from China
In January 2010, Google detected a "highly sophisticated" cyber-attack on its infrastructure that originated from China. The targets of the attack were Chinese human rights activists, but Google discovered that accounts belonging to European, American and Chinese activists for human rights in China had been "routinely accessed by third parties". Additionally, Google stated that their investigation revealed that "at least" 20 other large companies from a "wide range of businesses" - including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors - had been similarly targeted. Google was in the process of notifying those companies and it was also working with relevant US authorities. In light of the attacks, Google enhanced the security and architecture of its infrastructure, and advised individual users to install anti-virus and anti-spyware on their computers, update their operating systems and web browsers, and be cautious when clicking on Internet links or when sharing personal information in instant messages and emails.
The February 2010 launch of Google Buzz, a former social network that was linked to Gmail, immediately drew criticism for publicly sharing details of users' contacts unless the default settings were changed.
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", and compared it to the Google Buzz initial launch privacy flaw.
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.
Key outage dates include:
|Date||Outage details||Affected users|
|January 24, 2014||Gmail widespread outage.||Global outage that lasted approximately 50 minutes for 10 percent of users. Google apologized for the outage, which, it reported, lasted 25 to 55 minutes and affected as many as 10% of 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 by 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.|
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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