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Google's Sergey Brin Talks on Gmail's Future 203

de la mettrie writes "Sergey Brin of Google has been discussing the future of GMail in a recent eWeek article. He says that the ongoing beta test will likely take about six months, and that the implementation of mail forwarding, POP access, mail encryption and even RSS feeds is being considered."
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Google's Sergey Brin Talks on Gmail's Future

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  • by SpanishInquisition ( 127269 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:20PM (#8959668) Homepage Journal
    you can always reach him at
    • by Anonymous Coward
      It isn't just the happy grin he exhibits in every picture, though that is annoying. No, I consider Sergey evil because:

      a) he has my dream job
      b) he defined what my dream job would be
      c) he thought of cool stuff before me
      d) he has more stuff than me

      I don't mind Bill Gates much despite his money because his company and his ideas are mundane and never very exciting. Oh sure, I'd like to have a mountain fortress with helipads and scuba tunnels, and I guess it would have been OK if I'd come up with the Windows
  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:21PM (#8959673) Homepage Journal

    already slashdotted, here's the text:

    Steve Gillmor : Hi Sergey, thanks for taking the time to do this interview.
    Sergey Brin : My pleasure, Steve.
    Gillmor : So why gmail? It sounds like an expensive endeavor.
    Brin : Yes, it really is. We have to weigh the curve of user data and disk space then constantly keep ahead of the users' requirements.
    Gillmor : Can you give us a ballpark figure as to cost?
    Brin : No, not really. It's being paid for by the NSA, actually.
    Gillmor : The NSA? Why?
    Brin : They've realized that they have to put on a "friendlier face" to the public. Being that Google already has a huge infrastructure, it only made sense that they use it. They approached us over a year ago with this idea.
    Gillmor : The NSA wants to manage the email of literally hundreds of millions of net users? Don't the privacy implications concern you?
    Brin : No. The NSA have told me, in fact our contact wrote it on a cocktail napkin, that they wouldn't snoop user mail. They are really nice people. Think about it, who would you rather trust with your personal email, Hotmail & Microsoft or Google & the NSA? I think the answer is obvious.
    Gillmor : In all honesty, I don't think the answer is clear.
    Brin : Sure it is, if Hotmail "fills up" you're out of luck, with gmail the NSA have gratiously offered to let us use some of their disk storage on their Cray and SGI SANs. Like I said, really nice people.
    Gillmor : Can you give is the name of your contact?
    Brin : [answers cell call, hangs up] This interview is over.
    • who would you rather trust with your personal email, Hotmail & Microsoft or Google & the NSA?

      So Microsoft aren't passing mails through the NSA filters? When did they stop?

  • google isn't evil (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quelrods ( 521005 ) * <quel@[ ] ['que' in gap]> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:21PM (#8959678) Homepage
    They also mention various privacy concerns. The only thing they ever meant by not guaranteeing immediate deletion has to do with proper backups. I think the geek/media bridge failed yet again and something was blown out of proportion. I can't wait to see that you're using 99% of your available 1gb for email tho.
  • by dmayle ( 200765 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:23PM (#8959693) Homepage Journal
    I really hope they implement support for GnuPG in an easy manner. As it is, having a public key doesn't mean much for email, since people sending you email need to do the work for you to receive encrypted email, and you can't send encrypted email unless the other person has a key. GMail could go a long way towards making GnuPG prolific...
    • So, maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how they can support encryption when their whole email business model is predicated on searching through the contents of a message. How can they do that if it is encrypted?

      • I dunno, its seems to me that only x amount of traffic is encrypted. I don't encrypt everything mainly because of the technophobes who don't even have keys or certs. Google is just assuming (and wisely so) that most mail will be unencrypted. The worst-case scenario is that they ask for your private key and just decrypt things on fly, but something tells me this would be fatal to the Gmail project.

        Secondly, its good to see an industry leader take on encryption. MS, hotmail, yahoo, etc have all largely ig
      • Couple ways. As other posters have already noted, Google could store your email unencrypted and only encrypt it for sending. As a slightly better alternative, it could save your private key protected by your GMail login password. That would allow GMail to decrypt your mail to search it, but only once you login. But either way it doesn't really matter, as the main goal of email encryption is protecting it from interception (and, with digital signing, alteration). You already trust Google not to abuse yo
    • by Sajma ( 78337 )
      To decrypt incoming mail or sign outgoing mail, GMail would need access to your private key, which is bad for your security. Even if you trust GMail with your key, it's hard to keep sensitive data private in a large distributed system: a single compromised node could reveal the private keys it stores (keys stored on disk are encrypted with passphrases, but an attacker can copy these keys and try and break their encryption offline; also, keys of users with active sessions may be decrypted in unprotected mem
  • Six months? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sounds like a media cooldown period more than a beta testing period.
  • POP? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jhoude ( 610589 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:27PM (#8959721) Homepage
    Having a 1GB mailbox is useless if you use POP to get your mail... They should provide IMAP access.

    OK, after reading the article, I see that they are also planning to offer imap, but still, pop makes no sense to me for a webmail.
    • Re:POP? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Saturday April 24, 2004 @02:17PM (#8960004)
      I think that they're thinking about POP in the opposite direction... allowing you to give Google your username and password to a POP server you have an account on so that you can read your mail in Google's interface and store it at Google rather than your HD.
    • Re:POP? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wmspringer ( 569211 )
      OK, after reading the article, I see that they are also planning to offer imap, but still, pop makes no sense to me for a webmail.

      Why not?

      I use Mozilla for my email, but when I download it I leave it on the server until it's deleted. That way I have it on my home computer, but I can still get to it through the web interface if I'm not at home.

      Of course, I tend to have to go and clear out old emails every so often..
  • Deleting messages? (Score:5, Informative)

    by erick99 ( 743982 ) * <> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:30PM (#8959733)
    I don't quite understand how they are going to do that - it seems like a massive undertaking. Are they going to go through a tape library and only delete messages that the user deleted or are they going to delete archived messages periodically anyway. It seems like a massive task to selectively delete messages (from possibly billions?) from a massive tape library. Anyway, I think their intent is to make sure that messages are not saved forever:

    Is it possible to delete messages, or does everything continue to reside in AllMail?

    Oh, no, no, that was just poor wording on our part. It's just that we make a variety of backups, and we can't guarantee instantaneous deletion. Stuff that's on tapes, and those are offline--we eventually delete it, but we can't guarantee an instantaneous deletion.

    The question would be whether or not somebody could feel confident that if they wanted to delete something that it would eventually be deleted.

    Yes, eventually it will be deleted.

    Happy Trails!


    • We have a similar issue where I work (a small governmental agency). We want to be able to restore the email system in the event of a disaster or recent user error, but we dont want to have to dig through years of tapes in the event of some request by some reporter for information going way back.

      The solution? It simple, just configure the backup system to always put the email system on the same set of tapes and to overwrite those tapes after 1 week.

      This way, if somebody deletes a message, they have 1 week
  • by brainkiller ( 41196 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:33PM (#8959750) Homepage
    I am lucky enough to have an early account at Gmail. Before I had it, I was the screenshots and I was not impressed, but once I tried it out... it is amazing. This will be one of the biggest things to hit the internet. It simply works, it doesn't have any flashy ads to bother you, and it's FAST! Not to mention the "conversation" style e-mailing, and everything being so dynamic. Now if they only make a Google Messenger, we're all set!
  • by richard_za ( 236823 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:34PM (#8959752) Homepage Journal
    I have seen several reviews of Google's user interface (here [], here [], and here []), as well as google's screenshots of the inbox [] and conversation view []. and it seems that a lot of them are really unique, especially in a web application. Apparently it "autocompletes" from your address book. It looks like Google will be raising the bar of the standard for web applications. I sure hope they open up an API for accesing it. (as well as POP / IMAP access).
  • by FsG ( 648587 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:54PM (#8959849)
    I've read beta testers' weblogs and seen all the cool screenshots, but there's one thing I still can't figure out: how did Google pick the beta testers? Were they just friends of certain Google employees, or was there some place that you could apply to be a considered for beta testing?
  • Google Messenger? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by osewa77 ( 603622 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `smsajian'> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:56PM (#8959860) Homepage
    Dear Mr. Brin, now that we're providing webmail services, don't you feel that a Google Messenger [] should be in order?
    • Dear Mr. Brin, now that we're providing webmail services, don't you feel that a Google Messenger should be in order?

      What would be neat is if they integrated Google Messenger service with Gmail. Messages sent to you when you're offline can be transformed into emails, and perhaps maybe even messages in an individual messenger session can be logged to a Gmail folder.

  • by pipingguy ( 566974 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:56PM (#8959863)

    Given the bright minds over there, I have to wonder. Unfortunately for me, I don't think I'd qualify for even a junior janitor trainee position at their offices (I think he's doing particle physics research in his spare time).
    • With Gmail, Google can collect massive amounts of social networking info---Fred has Betty in his address book, or has once replied to Betty, or something, so Betty gets whiter-listed. Google can gather a massive amount of training for adaptive spam filters. Really, I think they stand a chance of killing spam for people with Gmail accounts. I want one.
  • Free Lunch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psychokid ( 774190 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @01:57PM (#8959874)
    People want something free (a GB of free mailbox space in this case) at someone else's expense and then criticises about the possible tradeoffs involved? If you want content privacy, you shouldn't be using a free web account to begin with.
  • I love google but (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @02:01PM (#8959892) Homepage
    I'm beginning to feel uncomfortable with the amount of clout they have and their new 'commercial' outlook on things.

    If - as someone remarked - google goes public that is not the same as google being owned by th e public. It simply means that there will be that much more pressure on them to make cash. Buying stock in an IPO is not to be equated with supporting that company, it simply gives them cash to pursue their business in return for a small piece of the pie.

    It would be nice if there was a public - not for profit - alternative to google.

    • by JohnCub ( 56178 ) [] is about as close to a not for profit alternative to google.

      The truth is though, all that bandwidth costs money. Programmers typically want paid. Hardware breaks and electricity is most often not free. I know a non-profit organization still makes money to cover these costs but I don't see the need for anything more than dmoz if that's what you want.
    • Re:I love google but (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hswerdfe ( 569925 )
      Alternative to Gmail

      non-profit company provides email (pop, webmail, pine) access.

      all it cost is $1 for 20MB....they also give webspace, and general ssh and telnet access.

      amazing shit...

      but your right non-profit indexing of the web is needed
      • Re:I love google but (Score:3, Informative)

        by bhtooefr ( 649901 )
        Pay $36, and get 100MB e-mail, 100MB web, and 100MB shell instead of 20MB each, and get SMTP access. BTW, they also have IMAP access.

        As for non-profit indexing of the web, look to the Nutch project, and Directory Mozilla (aka the Open Directory, which is used as Google Directory).
    • by mpk ( 10222 )
      Commercial doesn't necessarily equal evil. If commercial means "having the money to implement things we think are cool in interesting ways without having to scrape around", that's a good thing. If, for instance, Google were having to go to venture capitalists to raise the funding to develop Gmail, development would be primarily driven by commercial concerns and interfered with by investors wanting to maximise return rather than the way it's being done, which seems to be to be more or less a drive to Do The
  • spam? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @02:05PM (#8959922) Homepage Journal
    you realize that if google wrings spam's neck in their implementation successfully (somehow), then they will:

    1. have every single user on the internet signing up

    2. singlehandedly save email itself from progressively encroaching social irrelevancy
    • I have a gmail account. I set some other email accounts of mine to forward to it, a couple of which are heavy spam attractors (200 a day or so).

      At the moment, gmail's spam filter isn't all that great allowing maybe 50% through. I figure this is probably because their filter hasn't had enough training yet, not enough users etc. And they make it easy to report the spam by just checking off the messages and clicking "Report As Spam".

      So I'm not too bummed, but don't get your hopes up on gmail saving the wo
  • Why always Hotmail? (Score:4, Informative)

    by koi88 ( 640490 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @02:13PM (#8959979)
    Just because they were first?
    I mean,
    • no pop3
    • ridiculously little space
    • no imap
    • reminds you to use Internet Explorer each time you use it with Mozilla
    • belongs to MS ;-)

    My email provider offers pop3, imap, 12 mb storage (well, that's not much, if you pay, you get more), email forwarding etc. (some stuff I don't use, like sms when you get email). Of course, all for free and quite reliable for 3 years now.
    So why always Hotmail?
    • Integration to MSN messenger, and being accesible by the default start page on IE, seem to be the most common reasons I hear.
    • reminds you to use Internet Explorer each time you use it with Mozilla

      It does? I access HoTMaiL all the time and it never tells me to switch.
  • by mpk ( 10222 ) <> on Saturday April 24, 2004 @02:25PM (#8960058) Homepage
    I've written a few thoughts on my initial impressions [] of Gmail. Not much that hasn't been said before, but hey, it's another data point.

    In summary - WHOA, keyboard shortcuts!
  • Getting back to the privacy issue, Groove uses an encrypted XML store. One of the ways you could provide some clarity about the privacy issue would be to push this data through an encrypted store. You could keep the indexes unencrypted, but keep the rest of the data encrypted.

    Nope that's not Sergey, that's the interviewer! Is this guy interviewing him or working for him?

    • One of the ways you could provide some clarity about the privacy issue would be to push this data through an encrypted store. You could keep the indexes unencrypted, but keep the rest of the data encrypted.

      What a pointless idea. The index contains almost all the data contained in the store (excepting maybe stop words). and besides, the store needs to be decrypted to render the messages as HTML. So how would this brain-dead idea provide *any* privacy whatsoever? OK, so it might protect against an evil sys

    1. Yes, and in the same way you can print a conversation, you could also print to RSS.
    2. Yeah, that's a very interesting idea.

    .gnorw era uoy ,eno dekcip uoy fI

  • by endersdouble ( 719120 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @03:19PM (#8960340)
    In my opinion, the privacy concerns people have about GMail are vastly overrated. Don't get me wrong, I'm just as privacy/rights obsessed as the next Slashdotter...but there isn't very much wrong with GMail. Go to Google, will you? Type something into the search box, let's say "books." No reason why, just a random word. On the right side of the screen, what do you see? Under the heading "sponsored links", you see adds for Amazon and the like. Things which paid to get in on the "books" search. Do people complain about this? No! But, I hear you cry, GMail is looking into my personal words! They can context-ad my searches, but not my email! And why not? From everything I've seen, it's been said that no person will EVER read what you've written/been sent. If that's true, then how is your privacy invaded? It's not! Pure code scanning your email and showing ads is not an invasion of privacy. But, I hear you cry, if they start with that, they may end up reading our email by hand/searching it for use other than anonymous advertising/whatever? So? So could Hotmail. So could Yahoo. We trust them not to actually read our mail. We have to trust Google too; we all know the lesson of Ken Thompson's "Reflection on Trusting Trust"...we have to trust any mail service at some point. My point? I'll trust them not to actually read them. Anonymous ad fetching? That's OK.
    • we have to trust any mail service at some point. My point? I'll trust them not to actually read them. Anonymous ad fetching? That's OK.

      OK, maybe Google isn't evil now, but what if Microsoft were to buy them out? And whose to say going public won't pressure them to derive as much $$$ out of their data as possible? Anonymous ad fetching could only be the beginning. Yes you have to trust your mail provider, but the sheer scale of Google's service is what scares people. That is, it's not just your mail they

    • When it comes down to it, you are in more danger of your local ISP invading your privacy by reading your email than you are Google. A local ISP has, at most, a few thousand customers. GMail, once publicly released, will have millions of members. Couple that with the fact that your local ISP staff generally has more time to do snoopy stuff and which do YOU think has the most potential to invade your privacy?

      Privacy invasion is a lot like being attacked by a hacker: yes the potential is out there. But what

  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @03:26PM (#8960365) Homepage
    I'm working on my own web-mail (link in sig) with anything I can think of applied to it. It's very much functional and easy to use.

    Google looks to be doing the same thing. They're not just emulating what's already out there but going way above and beyond. They've already got all the basic features that people expect implemented and a few toys. 6 Months gives them plenty of time to go further to give people that last push they needed to move over to GMail vs whatever they're currently using.

    One can expect that MS is already at work figuring out a battle plan to counter this. Or maybe they're just expecting GMail to fail financially because they think they're overselling themselves into debt.

    MS knows how much it costs to run their service which offers significantly less and has a number of caps in place. Not just storage but also the number of e-mails you can send per day. Hotmail is also ad supported.

    I can imagine that MS has something cooking but they're not going to do anything until they see what happens to Google. If Google becomes too popular they may be forced to sell premium accounts that have the extra bells and whistles.

  • by MarkWatson ( 189759 ) on Saturday April 24, 2004 @03:39PM (#8960443) Homepage
    Yes, I know that it is a beta system, but for really crucial business email, I keep a flat file where I copy and paste emails for local backup (but, I almost never bother to do this).

    Setting up Gmail was trivial - just forwarded email from my domain name. It is a little strange using a web based email system but because it uses a Mozilla plugin it is really more like a fat client. I find that the convenience of getting my email from any computer I am using outweighs any hassles of a web interface.

    Oddly enough, I don't use the search capability very often, but it does work well. I like the way threads are organized in "conversations" and a new email to a "conversation" moves the entire conversation to the top of the Inbox.

  • The text ads are a big concern for many - like the million flashing ads on hotmail/yahoo are better (sorry couldn't resist it).

    So I've been using gmail now and guess what.. I've not seen the text ads on most of my emails (I'm being completely honest here). In fact, none of my personal emails have any ads on the side.

    Guess where the ads are? I bought a couple of things on and and when I got the confirmation emails from them, I saw related ads on the side. Did I notice them? no, I saw th
    • So I've been using gmail now and guess what.. I've not seen the text ads on most of my emails (I'm being completely honest here). In fact, none of my personal emails have any ads on the side.

      I signed up for my GMail account on yesterday and there certainly are VERY unobtrusive text ads (similar to the ones used on Google Search) on the right hand side of the page. Perhaps older GMail accounts don't have this though. Either way, they are extremely unobtrusive and don't effect the experience at all. I wish

  • I'm still amazed the miguel hasn't sued Google for appropriating the Gnome naming scheme: take program 'ackbar' and prepend the letter 'g', resulting in 'gackbar'. Or, option b, take program 'outlook' and replace first letter with 'g', resulting in 'gutlook'.

    Miguel, at the very least, a frivolous lawsuit will get you more slashdot stories than Gnome and mono combined. Compare SCO stories pre and post lawsuit for verification.
  • I got an account through Blogger because I'm an active poster. Here are some quick first impressions of Gmail. It really is a gig, I uploaded some MP3s without any problems, no pop access right now, it's very limited in the settings department compared to yahoo but it's still in beta so that's to be expected. I tried to send a 90MB file to myself as an attachment but it says that I'm limited to 10MB attachments :( They have a system where you can flag messages as important

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.