back to article That's it, we're all really OLD: Google's Gmail is 10 ALREADY

Gmail shook up the world of free web email in the mid-2000s, but 10 years after going public in 2004, Google’s service offers much more than simply firing emails around the world. When Google unveiled Gmail on 1 April, 2004, the company’s co-founders reckoned the service was just its way of making email better. Gmail was, we …


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  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Shame about scanning emails to target advertising though

    Everything went downhill from then on.

    1. Jim 48

      Re: Shame about scanning emails to target advertising though

      It's free, get over it.

      If you want private mail you have to pay for it.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Shame about scanning emails to target advertising though

        There was advertising-supported webmail before gmail. Having advertising-supported webmail does not mean that your e-mail must be scanned.

      2. scrubber

        Re: Shame about scanning emails to target advertising though

        The point isn't that the free service scans your mail, it's that Google made the legal argument that it wasn't 'reading' your emails since it was an automated scanning system that went through them. Which allowed the NSA to store and scan every American's emails without a warrant as they're "not reading them, even Google says so" and present that to various secretive courts.

        1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Shame about scanning emails to target advertising though


  2. PabloPablovski

    Great, but not entirely perfect..

    I've loved Gmail since I was invited onto the Beta by a guru mate. Easy to use, loads of storage and, once I figured out how to use IMAP, syncs well across multiple devices.

    However, a few years ago, I started getting email that was apparently aimed at me (used my name) but which was of no relevance - usually about jobs in Utica, Michigan or, in one case, travel insurance docs for someone's trip to Florida. It seems that Google has assigned my email addy - which I've had since the Beta - to someone else and both are operational. I get at least some of his email (and, possibly, he gets some of mine). I also get email intended for someone whose address is the same as mine, minus a dot in between 1st and 2nd names.

    And, natch, if i try to email either of those people to let them know that I've received confirmation of their order for Cialis, and convince them to give up their (my!) addy, well, it's like peeing into the wind.

    I know you can do clever things with email addresses like add a string after the name and before the @ so that you can tell how the addy got into the hands of spammers, but this is different. I presume this came about because early adopters were allowed to use just first name / second name as the address rather than including digits. Wish I'd picked

    1. Radio

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      Gmail has never looked at dots in the email address and as well as have always gone to the same mailbox.

    2. Argh

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      Any "." in gmail email addresses has no meaning. See

    3. IDoNotThinkSo

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      I get the same - funnily enough, it is also someone in Florida, who I managed to track down to an actual address based on the email content.

      Unfortunately I can't find their real email address, which they obviously have a habit of getting wrong.

      The dot has no meaning in Gmail.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

        Me too.

        My US alter ego seems to attract spam from the Republican Party inviting donations and policy suggestions - I have set out at length the importance of a proper National Health Service, public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, redistributive taxation and teaching evolution in schools. I await the result.

        He also needs his "tires" checked, whatever those are.

    4. Benjol

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      Try, or, etc.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      I get occasional emails to my GMail account (which is of the form <first initial><surname>) from random places too. Seems to be either from people who think they know their friend's/family member's email address, but haven't got it quite right (missed out a number at the end maybe?) or from websites where someone has registered but couldn't even get their own email address right.

    6. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Great, but not entirely perfect..

      I too have a problem with receiving email intended for someone with the same name on gmail. It's been going on for years and it's always the same person.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    All that technology

    And all it's used for is messages from Papajohn's saying my pizza will be ready in half an hour.

    I have a Hotmail address for legacy reasons: I predate the MS takeover/demolition of it.

    For mail that matters, I have a paid-for service, which *I* control.

  4. Paul Shirley

    those so called 'killer features'...

    ...are roughly the minimum *starting point* I've expected from mail clients since the mid 90's. Even DOS clients ;)

    Depressing to think the move to the browser set mail back so far, for so long that Googles horrible Gmail client was somehow revolutionary. I find it a lot more palatable using gmail as just a transport layer, even the mediocre Thunderbird front end beats Googles piss poor efforts.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: those so called 'killer features'...

      I would have killed for an email client that did conversation threading back in the day, or indeed for a spam filter that actually works. What were you using in the 90s that had those features?

      1. Tufty Squirrel

        Re: those so called 'killer features'...

        > What were you using in the 90s that had those features?

        gnus (the mail client in emacs), but IIRC mutt did threading too. And, if I'm not mistaken, so did eudora on the mac.

        Spam blocking was a bit more tricksy, but gnus allows you to do that too.

        and it does newsgroups.

  5. MJI Silver badge

    Our biggest mistake

    Not buying the domain name when we had a product with a similar name.

  6. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    No, thanks.

    This is quite a bit off-topic though. Years and years ago I was using yahoo groups (not e-mail) for quite some time. Young and foolish as I was I used my usual e-mail address but all was fine, no problem at all. Until I subscribed to a google newsgroup. And from that very moment spam started to flood in endlessly. I don't know exactly how the culprits retrieved my address but I'm pretty sure it was via this google group and it sustainably damaged my confidence in all things google. No gmail for me, I prefer paying for my own mail server.

    1. IDoNotThinkSo

      Re: No, thanks.

      "Google Groups" are mostly just a wrapper around Usenet.

      Posting on Usenet using unobscured email addresses has never really been a good idea - and 'never' goes back well before Google or even the WWW.

      1. James O'Shea Silver badge

        Re: No, thanks.

        I used a nontweaked address on USENET way back in the mid-90s. I still get spam on that address, though I haven't used it for anything serious for more than 15 years. Almost all of it is spam from Asia: Korea, mostly in Korean, Taiwan, some in Chinese and some in English, China, mostly in Chinese, Singapore, mostly in very good English (and mostly about real estate, apparently Singapore is a lot bigger than I'd thought) and Hong Kong, mostly in very bad English. I also get the usual Russian 'Canadian Viagra/Cialis' and 'genuine fake Rolex' spam. Every ever so often I set my filters to discard non-Latin characterset messages and 90+% of my spam goes away.

        If I go near USENET nowadays I use a tweaked address, specifically to avoid spam, with my real address buried in the sig line. I still get spam, but not much. Apparently only the Russians care enough to dig deep enough to find the address in the sig.

      2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: No, thanks.


        Absolutely, and I'd never use my real email address again. What did I know back then. And in the end, whatever is behind Google Groups, it's still branded Google.

  7. RyokuMas

    It has its uses...

    Every time I need to set up a throw-away testing account, or sign up for something which might cause me to receive a deluge of shitemail - Gmail every time!

    1. KjetilS

      Re: It has its uses...

      You might want to try mailinator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It has its uses... ftw!

  8. hammarbtyp

    You won't miss it till it's gone.

    Our company moved from Lotus Notes to business GMail a number of years ago. When it was announced there was much gnashing of teeth especially by those who were weaned on the arcane interface that was Lotus notes.

    After a few years we were taken over and our accounts moved back to MS outlook. Everyone I know now sorely misses GMail especially the improved search, sharing of documents and sites that came as part of the GMail cloud.

    GMail showed that the cloud was here and it was a better, more efficient way of working

    1. GregC

      Re: Gnashing of teeth moving away from Notes

      If a similar move was announced at our place there would be a party in the street!

      It's the single most hated piece of software in the company. Even SAP doesn't get the same level of abuse...

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: You won't miss it till it's gone.

      I remember moving from Lotus Notes to Exchange/Outlook. I never liked LN's GUI (in fact, I think it's crap) but after the change I felt like being bombed back to Stone Age. This happened about ten years ago and, still on the MS stuff, I didn't experience much of an improvement since then.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: You won't miss it till it's gone.

        I agree, Lotus Notes had an appalling user interface even when new and it never improved. It did, however, have a lot of very useful features that many users missed in the obligatory move to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. Microsoft haven't done much with Outlook except re-skin the main interface every few years (the same old back end dialogs are in place in places even in the latest "metro" version, the same old bugs and useless HTML rending are there as well), made it slower and even more resource hungry and bloated it with lock-in features that most users never notice or use.

        On the other hand, has email functionality reached the limit of what is sensible? At which point refinements in email client user interfaces are just that.

  9. John Lilburne

    The kickback is coming

    When I analysed the spam signups to the company forum 80% were from gmail accounts. The rest were predominately hotmail and yahoo. Given that our users are from manufacturing companies and the reading the content doesn't require signing up, there was no need to allow gmail registration (or hotmail/yahoo either). In the past year we have had 2 individual requests to allow registration from a gmail account.

    Our spammer signups have reduced from 200+ a day to about 20 a month.

    More and more forums are rejecting gmail and other free email services as a legitimate method of sign up.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: The kickback is coming-

      "More and more forums are rejecting gmail and other free email services as a legitimate method of sign up."

      Catch 22.

      I use a free disposable account on forums because I don't trust them to keep my details private. Some do, some don't, so my private email stays exactly that - private.

    2. Pookietoo

      Re: 80% were from gmail accounts

      They may have looked like they were from GMail accounts, but I doubt that they actually were.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    near-watertight spam protection

    shame I get shitload of spam FROM gmail accounts.

    1. Ralph B

      Re: near-watertight spam protection

      > shame I get shitload of spam FROM gmail accounts.

      They might have come from an @gmail address, but I very much doubt they saw a google mail server on the way to you.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: near-watertight spam protection

        They signed up for an email account on a google mail server. The IP address that they came from is listed on honeypots as having sent numerous spam. For forums the email has to be active and receiving mail for them to complete the forum signup process. The sign ups are mostly via bots. There is plenty of opportunity for a competent supplier of free mail accounts to detect spammers. It probably costs a bit to do so though, and thus that cost is passed on to everyone else. Screw them. If they can't stop their users from polluting the web then the web needs to shut them off at source.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Numbers of gmail users

    When I setup an android tablet and needed a play account, I had two options - link it to my existing email address, or set up a single purpose account - for which gmail was sufficient and natively supported.

    So I have a gmail account (which receives confirmations of purchases from the play store, and the occasional bit of advertising) a Live email account (which syncs things across Windows 8 and is my login to a (Sky)OneDrive account ), and another email account (which I use for actual email communications)

    Now I'm not going to claim that means you can divide google's numbers by three to get to a more representative estimate of users who use gmail accounts as their primary email, but I suspect more than a few were set up to coincide with the purchase of an androidy device. Or as a result of collectivisation of youtube accounts.

  12. Jay 2

    I can't stand the conversation view. After a few replies I find it almost impossible to find (and respond to) what I'm lookign for. At least on the web front end you can turn the damn thing off, unlike the phone apps...

    Similarly I had to fudge a filter to turn of that damn important email stuff. I just want a plain old inbox where the newest messages are at the top. I don't want some algorithm moving email about where I won't see it because it seems to think it knows what I'm thinking.

    Still, bit of a shock that it's been 10 years!

    1. monkeyfish

      Settings button (the one that looks like a cog) > Configure inbox > untick everything but 'primary'

      Then settings button (again) > Settings > Labels > switch important (and anything else you didn't want) to 'hide'

      It's not that hard.

      1. Euripides Pants

        Re: It's not that hard.

        No, but it is annoying to have to keep de-crapifying Gmail every time Google wants to tack some new shit on to it.

        1. monkeyfish

          Re: It's not that hard.

          Fair enough, I'll concede to that. But it amazes me the number of people who complain about some new feature cluttering the interface, but never actually check the settings to see if they can turn it off. My wife and extended family included, even though some of them are computer literate in many other ways.

  13. Jim 59

    Great but not for business

    Webmail is possible the best ever web invention, and Gmail is gr8. But this article reads like it was written by Google. Google docs/collaborative tools are spoken of at length, without even a mention of the many ineluctable arguments against their adoption by business, which circulate around loss of control, ownership, security and secrecy.

    How would Google inc. like to put its critical business documentation on somebody else's server, in another country, under alien laws? Eg. Tax returns ? Redundancy plans ?

    1. Tank boy

      Re: Great but not for business

      It works good for smaller businesses. A mega corporation, probably not so much. For chit-chat among workers/managers for non-sensitive communication it's really hard to beat free. Plus you don't have to send an email using to send a message to an employee.

  14. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Conversation/Threading view is sh*te

    As far as I can tell, you want to delete one email from a thread, it deletes the whole damn thread. It's the sole reason I don't use the Android gmail app where threading is not optional.

    With the idiots I have to correspond with, I'd end up with half the conversations being "me too!" that I wanted to trim out.

    Does anyone know a way around this retarded brokeness?

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Conversation/Threading view is sh*te

      @Gene Cash

      Click on a conversation to open it, see the 'reply' button, there is a drop-down arrow. Click on it. 5th one down is 'delete this message'.

      What am I? Googles tech support?

  15. Irongut

    number of Gmail subscribers ranges between 289 million and 425 million

    How many hundred million of those are people who bought an Android phone, need a Gmail account to use it and have never used it for email?

    I use my Android required Gmail account for contacting one person and only read it on my phone so I never see the adverts. All my other email goes through my other work or personal accounts. I refuse to put anything else through a system that scans everything I read/write.

    1. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Re: number of Gmail subscribers ranges between 289 million and 425 million

      <looks at Android phone> Errm... I have an Android phone and have never turned email on it on. I use it as... a phone. Don't need email there. I've never downloaded an app on that phone. I've never even turned on the web interface. (Well, not after testing it in the store to see if it worked, just in case I ever needed to use it.) I got that phone (a Gingerbread device with pitiful RAM and storage) precisely because it was the cheapest phone available and I wanted to use it only as a phone. I really wanted a flip phone to replace my previous flip phone, but they didn't have any available. My Android is on the same account as my iPad... and +that+ has Gmail turned on, and has apps, and is used to talk to the Internet.

  16. Hans 1

    Hotmail has always been for idiots ... (later integrated into AIM/AOL) offered 5Mb storage in 1997 + IMAP and 250Mb way before gmail came around. I could send a 3Mb email message with my account in 1997 ... arguably just one (until I removed it from "sent items"), but hey, three times more than hotmail ...

    I remember back in ~2000, pruning CV's ... hotmail email address? := trashcan

    .... sorry for whoever got binned like that, but we had too many applicants for the various positions and had to start somewhere, besides, if you cannot count to 5 you are no good for a business.

  17. monkeyfish

    Seeing screenshots of the old Gmail...

    ...reminds me how much I liked it. I've got used to the G+ style since, but I turned it off for as long as I could.

    As an aside, if they want a new killer feature, I've got one I suggested to them years ago: Let me select multiple emails with different subjects and put them in one 'conversation'. It's a pita when someone changes the subject slightly and forces the whole thing into a different list.

  18. Fading

    How long.....

    Yep just checked - I first got an gmail account on the first of November 2004.

  19. Boothy

    email Importance header

    10 years on and they still don't handle the 'Importance' header, meaning emails highlight as important show up fine for everyone else, all except gmail users!

    Granted not normally too important to home users (and often abused anyway), but this is often used by business users.

    At the moment your stuck with adding things like 'URGENT' to the email title instead, which just looks horrible.

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: email Importance header

      The priority thing works for me, but admittedly not in the web interface. But who uses webmail for serious purposes? Use a client and the priority just works

  20. JDX Gold badge

    There have been great improvements more recently

    Though they tend to slip in without too much fanfare, and often rely on browser HTML5 support. For instance copy-pasting images from the clipboard was a massive boon that was sorely missed compared to Outlook, and the inline resize-image thing is pretty neat. Also drag-dropping attachments to new emails, and previewing attachments on received email in the browser.

    GMail is the one web-app that really genuinely replaces a rich desktop application in my eyes, so many are "good enough" but GMail is probably the best thing Google have done.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: There have been great improvements more recently

      Unless the part of the message that you're answering is under the compose frame.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward was originally not available in the uk due to some bs reason. Signing up gave you an address, unless you know how to "hack" the system.

  22. ThomH

    All that's missing is push mail for mobile clients

    ... and that's something we used to have but which was taken away. If I were setting up a new account now I'd seriously consider but I'm not unhappy enough to leave. I assume the majority of people here managed to jump in early enough to get their actual name as an address?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      get their actual name as an address?

      Fortunately :DD

      I only have one issue with it. Something to do with retrieving e-mail from another GMail account. Probably something to do with the way I set it up. Too scared to frig with it in case something bad happens. Bad things do happen, you know? Damn it!

    2. Unlimited

      Re: actual name

      Why not get your own domain? You can have your actual name - or any other name(s) - as your address, plus the ability to migrate away.

  23. Frank N. Stein

    Facebook and other social networks are useful for self obsessed narcissists who feel the need to share every little thing that they do, every minute of the day, and people with no life, hobbies, or interests of their own, who are obsessed with what everyone else is doing. Social network messaging doesn't "replace" e-mail. E-mail is universal and can be used to contact anyone, anywhere in the world, whereas social network messaging is only useful for contacting people you're connected to within that social network. I spend as little time as possible on Facebook. for me, it's just something to do to stave off boredom. Nothing more than that.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Lots of people use FB to discuss their real life, hobbies and interests with their real-life friends. But of course you realise that, you wouldn't be making generalisations about a platform which allows people to use it in however serious or fatuous a way they wish.

  24. Baruch Atta

    Outlook vs Gmail


    Better interface, horrible slow search, better integration with other apps on PC


    Horrible interface, lack of integration, lack of folders, but quick search


    Outlook is for business where power counts. Gmail is for home use.

  25. Sanctimonious Prick

    GMail For Me

    ! deleted my 9 and a bit year old ! e-mail account due to inactivity :(

    I was homeless for about twelve months. However, during that twelve months, I did log into my ! chat! account, but not my ! e-mail account. And still, ! deleted the damn lot, grr!!!

    GMail for me, all the way.

    Yes, Google use computers to read my e-mails (just like the 5is), to display ads (unlike the 5is). I know that's irrelevant - just felt like throwing it in there :D

  26. Nameless Faceless Computer User

    Want to make it better?

    Want to make gmail better? Add folders. Threads suck.

    1. Trixr

      Re: Want to make it better?

      Do you mean message tags (labels)? I think those are the bee's knees.

      Folders are useless because you can only put a message in one folder. Tags allow you to give an email multiple categories if required, while still acting like folders in terms of viewing. You can filter messages using the labels as they're delivered to the inbox, and choose which will alert you to new messages (and which don't nag you).

  27. Piro Silver badge

    I was invited to Gmail.

    Now I feel old. Thanks. My career hasn't really gotten anywhere due to a number of factors, mainly my own failings.

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