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The Internet

The Webmail Wars 274

latif writes "Much of the excitement around Gmail has centered around its innovative interface, but a pretty interface is hardly Gmail's biggest contribution. Gmail's real contribution to webmail is its innovative business model. The new business model is what's allowing Gmail to offer 1 GB storage quotas, and still have an expectation of making money. Of course, Microsoft and Yahoo have noticed this too, and one can reasonably expect them to move their webmail services to the new model. An interesting battle is shaping up between the big three webmail providers, and my article "The Webmail Wars" analyzes some possible scenarios and outcomes."
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The Webmail Wars

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  • Battles (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlexTheBeast ( 809587 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @10:59AM (#10812781)
    As I have previously mentioned on tech-recipes [tech-recipes.com], I honestly don't see how there is a real war between these webmail services.

    Gmail kills them all in spam blocking and space...

    Plus, now... they have free pop as well.

    The privacy issue is the only thing that has been preventing my complete switch over.
    • Re:Battles (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cervo ( 626632 )
      nevertheless hotmail and yahoo have all the accounts. Can they keep their giant market share or will gmail gobble it all up? Also with the mass storage the bigger user bases cost more of a fortune to maintain while google is smaller so its initial investment is smaller. Anwyay the targeted search idea that gmail uses is brilliant. Too bad they had to go and try to file patents on it.
    • Re:Battles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nuskrad ( 740518 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:07AM (#10812826)
      The privacy issue is the only thing that has been preventing my complete switch over.

      Really, there *is* no privacy issue - I assume your talking about the scanning of emails for targeted advertisment. It doesn't breach your privacy any more than a spam filter or antivirus software, and personally, I rather the adverts be relevant (and discrete) as in Gmail that annoying flashy banner ads in some services.

      As I side issue, I use GmailFS to provide an extra, remote drive on my computer - will Google be stamping down on this, do you think?

      • Re:Battles (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:30AM (#10812916) Homepage Journal
        I've actually grown to like the gmail advertising model.
        Half the links they give are adverts, but the lower half are related links. The same links you get if you search for the same keywords.
        99% of the time, I find the automatic matches listed there mean I don't have to do a seperate websearch to find out more info.
        Its amazing how much more interest you can have in a subject if you can find out extra information about it :)
        I can't be the only person in the world who feels that they are a good thing.
      • [...] I rather the adverts be relevant (and discrete) as in Gmail that annoying flashy banner ads in some services.

        I agree. And those Google text ads make a lot sense from business perspective, too.

        They're using targeted ads which makes a lot of sense since people perceive them as less intrusive. Personally, I complete ignore them. I usually focus on the content of the email itself so the ads are mostly white noise to me. But a lot of people consider them a welcome addition. Sort of like a not-so-obnoxi

      • I use GmailFS to provide an extra, remote drive on my computer - will Google be stamping down on this, do you think?

        I will absolutely guarantee it.

        They've already made changes to Google to prevent people from setting options without storing the google cookie.

        What GmailFS is doing is far more resource-taxing, and costing them far more revenue. The instant they have a workaround (that doesn't cripple Gmail) they'll use it.
    • Re:Battles (Score:2, Interesting)

      by arbi ( 704462 )
      You might have missed the main points of the article. Among them, the article emphasized that MSN and Yahoo will now probably copy Google's features and business model.

      The question is how much of Google's GMail's features are patented, how the patents might hold up in court, and how easy is it to circumvent the patents.
    • Re:Battles (Score:2, Insightful)

      I've had Gmail since June and it's far from perfect. The Gmail search function needs a lot of work. Sometimes even searching by recipient won't find particular emails in the Sent folder.

      For all the talk about labels vs. folders, I find labels are counter-intuitive. Here in my filing cabinet I sort documents into folders; I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer. It's crazy!

      There are missing options like how about being able to permanently turn on Dis

      • Re:Battles (Score:3, Interesting)

        Oh, and one other thing. Conversations are not a good way to organize e-mail. If you're looking for an e-mail you must know which conversation it was in. It's difficult if you have a few conversations with the same person. If you don't know which conversation it was in you must check each, expand it so you can see each e-mail and manually read through them. Sure the search feature might find it but 1. It only finds the conversation, not the e-mail so you'd still end up reading the entire thread and 2.
        • Re:Battles (Score:3, Informative)

          by StikyPad ( 445176 )
          Conversations are not a good way to organize e-mail.

          That's why labels + filters = ... golders? Anyway, you can automatically have labels applied to all e-mail from yourfriend@someisp.com, which essentially puts them in folders. If your friend has multiple e-mail addresses, you can still create multiple filters to apply the same label to all of them. Presuming you know who that your e-mail is from Jim, you just find the relevant conversation (most likely within the past week), and scan through it for th
      • For all the talk about labels vs. folders, I find labels are counter-intuitive. Here in my filing cabinet I sort documents into folders; I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer. It's crazy!

        There is a way around this, and it's not very intuitive, I'll give you that.

        Basically just label an email, then archive it. It wont show up in the inbox, and it only shows up when you click on the label on the left (just like regular folders, but you can have the sa

      • Re:Battles (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BetterThanCaesar ( 625636 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:42AM (#10812974)

        I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer.

        That's like saying you don't use email because you wouldn't blockquote when answering real letters. Of course you don't stick labels to real-life files. Do you know why? Because your filing cabinet wouldn't sort them by these labels. The computer (i.e. Google), however, can and will.

      • For all the talk about labels vs. folders, I find labels are counter-intuitive. Here in my filing cabinet I sort documents into folders; I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer. It's crazy!

        I disagree, I think the labels are actually more intutive and easier to navigate.

        Just stick a label on an e-mail and archive it, you can then just click on that specific label to bring up all the e-mails that share that particular label (hey, just like a folder). It

      • Re:Battles (Score:5, Insightful)

        by goynang ( 680067 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:54AM (#10813022)
        For all the talk about labels vs. folders, I find labels are counter-intuitive. Here in my filing cabinet I sort documents into folders; I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer. It's crazy!


        You're so wrong it hurts me!

        Computer interfaces don't have to be exact mimics of the real world. They can improve on it too sometimes! If your filing cabinet could hand back the right documents when you just ask for some specific label then you probably would just throw them in the same drawer. Just because your real world filing cabinet can't do this doesn't mean an on-line version of a filing cabinet should have the same limitation.

        Being limited to only one 'home' for stuff that could be categorised into many is what's crazy.
      • Because after all is said and done it isn't any better than Yahoo! mail except for the storage capacity.

        My Yahoo! inbox is 2 GB. Admittedly, I'm paying for it.

        I'm paying for POP access actually, so I don't quite care about the 2 GB -- I'm just quite sure that if I leave on a long holiday, the inbox won't be full when I return. By the way, there's a nice Yahoo business trick here: offer 2GB inboxes clients that pay for POP access. It's not like they use much of the gift!
      • Re:Battles (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cmacb ( 547347 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @01:11PM (#10813339) Homepage Journal
        "For all the talk about labels vs. folders, I find labels are counter-intuitive. Here in my filing cabinet I sort documents into folders; I don't stick 3 or 4 different labels on documents and throw them all into the same drawer. It's crazy!"

        So, how often do you go to the Xerox machine, make three copies of the original document and file the four copies in four different places? How do you keep track of the fact that you have done this? Do you write on each copy a list of all the other places it's been filed? Do you ever have to make a note on one of these documents and then have to go locate the copies to make the same note? You must have lots of filing cabinets.

        The nice thing about labels is that there is only one copy of each document. Evolution handles this also with what I think they call "Virtual Folders". In the real world, of course, you must rely on the Xerox machine and whatever complex scheme you come up with to maintain these copies of things and keep them in synch. This is one of the many things from the real world that need not, and should not be copied to the virtual world. It takes some getting used to, but labels (virtual folders or whatever you want to call them) is a better system. Trust me.

        Of course, for people like you who are already USED to some very specific filing system Google could have taken a slightly different approach. I would have (and have suggested) that they allow for "move" and "copy" operations between the labeled groupings. So rather than apply label "friends" to a new message and then Archive it (to remove it from my Inbox), simply "move"ing it to "Friends" would have the same effect. I could also "move" a message from one label category to another in order to remove the old label and attach the new, or "Copy" from one label grouping to another in order to have both labels. The advantage of this paradigm is that it saves a step in most cases. It would also satisfy the needs of some people for the paradigm they are used to. The only "odd" thing about my way of doing it would be the need to warn a user if they were about to delete the last "copy" of a message. Deleting all but the last "copy" of a message would simply be removing extra labels from it, deleting the last copy would be marking it for trash. At no time would there actually be more than one copy of the file though.

        I suspect some future versions of file systems will take this approach too, using "links" to store the apparent copies without the user having to do that explicitly. Some extra tools would be required to allow for backups (when you actually want a copy) or clean-ups when you actually want to delete files. File systems that implemented this at a low enough level would save a lot of fragmentation as well, since a lot of files that are opened for update end up never actually getting updated.
    • Re:Battles (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Examancer2 ( 606336 )
      Unfortunately a products success does not rest solely on the products ability to perform, especially in the IT industry. Windows and IE are not the most used because they are better than the competition. The sucess of webmail services from Yahoo and Microsoft have historically been from their placement in a larger portal system that has nearly endless features and content to attract users. Google does not (yet?) offer instant messaging, gaming, sydicated content (Google News generates no revenue and is aggr
  • The Incredible Hulk [komar.org] says size matters when it comes to Webmail:

    Google: 1,000 MBytes
    Hotmail: 250 MBytes
    Yahoo: 100 Mbytes

    • Google: 1,000 MBytes

      It's actually 1,024 Mbytes (1 Gbyte), although Google displays 1,000 Mbytes. I don't really know why, perhaps to avoid confusing less-techie users.
  • Hotmail was good... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dosius ( 230542 ) <bridget@buric.co> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:01AM (#10812798) Journal
    Back in the days when HoTMaiL was the only webmail, it was good... Then MS bought them out and they turned to shit.

    My webhost gives me e-mail addresses. I just use them. I do have a gmail addy and it's nice. XD;

    Moll.
  • by chia_monkey ( 593501 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:04AM (#10812808) Journal
    I still find webmail an interesting phenomenon. I know there are millions of users out there. And I myself find it quite handy when I'm traveling. Being able to hop on any computer, open up a browser, and check my mail is good. But...I still don't use it that much. I have a Yahoo account (I think), I may have done a Hotmail account way back in the day, and I have my Gmail account. But even with those, I use my other accounts MUCH more. I liken it to AOL...I don't fully understand why someone would use AOL when they can get a much less intrusive and cluttered way to get to the Internet, yet they have millions of users. Same goes with my thoughts on webmail...why would someone pay for Internet service and then opt to use Hotmail?

    The only answers I can think of is to have a "safe" spot for addresses where you may end up getting a lot of spam. Or "secret" accounts. Or multiple accounts. And that's why I find these webmail wars fascinating...wars are being fought over this with the major players in the industry over something so seemingly unimportant (as say compared to OS wars, browser wars, etc)
    • by WarwickRyan ( 780794 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:29AM (#10812912)
      Why do I use webmail:

      a) I can access it anywhere.
      b) It's free.
      c) It doesn't change when I change ISP.
      d) It's backed-up properly by a commercial vendor, which is better than I can offer myself.
      e) Spam filtering is generally great.
      f) POP3 boxes are usually 30mb, which will fill in a week. Gmail is 1gig, that'll fill in a year.

      Personally, I use addresses at my own domain, and just foward the whole lot to gmail. Works a treat, and if gmail fails I'll just forward to my POP3 box again..
      • Why I use spamcop mail:

        a) I can access it anywhere.
        b) It's dammed cheap.
        c) It doesn't change when I change ISP.
        d) It's backed-up properly by a commercial vendor

        e) Spam filtering is better than anywhere else.

        f) It has actual folders.
        f) I can access it by SSL POP/IMAP.
        g) I can read mail far faster in a MUA
        h) I can flag/label/color/mark/delete mail far faster.
        i) I can download all new mail, and read it offline.

        etc.

        Not to evagelize spamcop.net mail, but it makes a good comparison, IMHO.
  • Not likely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Cisco Kid ( 31490 ) * on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:04AM (#10812810)
    All of this suggests that in the coming months, Microsoft and Yahoo will roll-out much improved webmail user-interfaces, and complement their webmail services with automated email scanning systems for the purpose of ad placement. Such systems will lead to some controversy, as some people are worried about the privacy implications of automated email scanning. Fortunately, Google supporters have made a lot of effort to appease Gmail privacy concerns, and the road is mostly clear for Microsoft and Yahoo.


    The primary reason google 'scanning my email' doesnt concern me is that google has a reputation for being honest. That google has attained that reputation gains absolutely nothing for Yahoo (spammer, spam supporter) or MS (convicted monopolist)

    I trust google several orders of magnitude further than I would trust Yahoo or MS. I would *never* use a hotmail or yahoomail account for anything other than a throwaway - yet I have in fact started using a gmail account for normal email.

    Anyone who lists an @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com email address anywhere even remotely business-related is showing that they are 'part of the consumer herd' - an @gmail.com address, on the other hand, suggests an air of elitism.

    If they follow this model, Im sure Yahoo and MS's ads will be flash and javascript popup ridden - Gmails ads are much less intrusive.

    Google knew exactly what they are doing - they arent looking for mass market share of morons.
    • Re:Not likely (Score:2, Insightful)

      Anyone who lists an @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com email address anywhere even remotely business-related is showing that they are 'part of the consumer herd' - an @gmail.com address, on the other hand, suggests an air of elitism.

      I may be a gmail fanboy, but give me a break. If you list your email address domain as any webmail provider, you are going to lose my business. Sure, you can use gmail for your email address, but buy a domain and forward the email. Crap, it's only a few bucks a year.

      Remember also
      • Re:Not likely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jorrit ( 19549 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:46AM (#10812989) Homepage
        Gmail does not "suggest an air of elitism." It suggests that one is too cheap to have their own email service.

        I think you are way too elitist (is that right english? I'm not a native english speaker) if you require people to have their own email service. What's the point in that exactly? I'm certainly not willing to pay for such a thing.

        Greetings,
        • Pay? I have cable internet. I have a domain. I have a computer that's on all the time. I built qmail, vpopmail, qadmin, qmail-scanner, and others... well, really gentoo built them. All I had to do was tweak my package.keywords so I could build the vpopmail et al for qmail. Right now I'm working on a build of qmail-spp so I can get greylisting. Costs me nothing above and beyond what I'm already paying for internet access (besides time) and I get virus-scanned web/imap-ssl mail in the bargain. dyndns.org keep
          • Yeah, I'm sure your cable internet provider loves the fact you run a mail server 24/7.

            And even if they DO, my ISP doesn't. Switching to another would cost more than a forwarded domain, too.
            • Comcast doesn't care unless you're a problem. I am not an open relay so... shrug. The only problem I really have is with domains requiring SPF from hosts inside comcast address space, which is unfortunately many of them. godaddy doesn't let you do TXT records, so no SPF. Damn it.
            • www.mydomain.com [mydomain.com]. $8.50 a year to forward whatever@yourdomain to gmail. And that includes the cost of the domain name itself.
      • Oh that's crazy talk.

        Ya know, for what it's worth I have never lost a message while using yahoo or gmail. I can't say that for some other providers.

        Sometimes, people don't want to use their regular/profesional/work email address.

        E-mail is e-mail is e-mail no matter how you fold it.
        • Re:Not likely (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Note that the parent is talking about business. Nobody cares if your personal email address is hotmail, yahoo, or whatever.

          Doing business with a @hotmail or @gmail email address would make me feel uneasy.

      • Sure, you can use gmail for your email address, but buy a domain and forward the email. Crap, it's only a few bucks a year.


        That introduces another point of failure in your communications. Now you're denied your email if your few-bucks-a-year site goes down OR if gmail goes down. Worst of both worlds.
        • Now you're denied your email if your few-bucks-a-year site goes down OR if gmail goes down.

          OR if the internet is completely destroyed OR if there is a global nuclear war OR if an alligator bites your hands off.
    • And the reason I trust google is that they're telling me they're scanning my email. If Yahoo or Microsoft wanted to there's nothing preventing them from doing it, surreptitiously.

      I believe Google when they say that all they want to do is target ads at me. If they, or Yahoo or Microsoft, wanted to really invade my privacy it wouldn't require continuously scanning my mail; they'd just read it once by human and learn whatever they want to learn.

      Or if the FBI decided it was time to check up on my little...
    • Re:Not likely (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Malfourmed ( 633699 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:36AM (#10812942) Homepage
      an @gmail.com address, on the other hand, suggests an air of elitism

      Not for long.
    • attitude and model (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brevity ( 155464 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:48AM (#10812998)
      Half of what you say is right. But:

      @gmail.com will not be a mark of the 'elite' for long. GMail is going for the mass market.

      And the point is, it's not entirely Google culture -- it's that GMail's business model doesn't require distraction. Their model is based on ads being relevant. If other webmail providers come up with similar relevance technology, they may become as sleek and non-intrusive as GMail.

      But you're right -- attitude matters. MS and Yahoo work by traditional techniques, i.e. dangling tasty candy to consumers, in order to deliver eyeballs to corporations. From the era of television.

      Google, thankfully, has a different attitude. They're not trying to go against the nature of the web and make it more like TV. They're trying to draw more businesses into the internet way of doing things.
    • Re:Not likely (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:27PM (#10813158) Homepage Journal
      "The primary reason google 'scanning my email' doesnt concern me is that google has a reputation for being honest."

      That reputation may not be well earned, somoene reported that his Gmail account was cancelled because he had warez in it [spdrivers.net]. While copyright infringement is illegal, I don't want any of my service providers scanning stuff for illegal activity without a good reason.
      • I don't want any of my service providers scanning stuff for illegal activity without a good reason

        The fact that you are using their service on their hardware for illegal activities is not a good reason? If you were Google, would you want to potentially be held accountable for someone else's illegal actions using your services?

        Also, I don't see how this affects Google's honesty. Gmail is a privilege, not a right, and ultimately Google doesn't have to put up with crap from its users like warez trafficking

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:07AM (#10812820) Homepage Journal
    gmail supporst non-western characters I just found out. Yahoo does not(despite the fact that yahoo.co.jp for example does). Something to think about in an increasingly interconnected world.
    • Well, thats not entirely true, but Hotmail and Yahoo do do weird things to non-western characters (or G-mail's handling is weird...).

      If I send a Japanese message from a regular pop3 account to Hotmail or Yahoo things displayed fine on the other end.

      If I send the same message using Gmail, the recipient ends up with garbage (even if sent to yahoo.co.jp). However, if the recipient downloads the message using pop3, it once again displays correctly. It is worth noting that I have tried manually adjusting the e
    • gmail supporst non-western characters I just found out. Yahoo does not(despite the fact that yahoo.co.jp for example does). Something to think about in an increasingly interconnected world.


      Yet gmail's interface is in english only. Yay, interconnected world. Even if you speak good english, and you have your yahoo or hotmail account in spanish, you can't use the import contact feature, because it fucks up with anything not in english.
  • I mean a lot of space to store your mail is good. Being a service provided by Google is also good. But
    there are also things like an excellent spam filter and search feature. If gmail offered 100 mb instead of a gig - i'd still sign up because of the above.
  • Text vs. Graphic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pedestrian crossing ( 802349 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:11AM (#10812843) Homepage Journal
    For me, the big difference is the use of text for the ads. Gmail advertising is not in your face. Hotmail advertising is obnoxious. Will MS and Yahoo get it? Can they sell toned-down ads to their customers (advertisers)?
  • by auzy ( 680819 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:11AM (#10812844)
    There are many other factors too..

    Due to the nature of hotmail and yahoo, and the lack of searching, even deleting 50 emails is difficult. Even worse, the spam detection on hotmail is very unreliable (about 50-75% accurate), meaning its very difficult to manage emails.

    The 200megs storage limit on hotmail can hold about 4000 emails, and since its difficult to handle even 50, I'd hate to leave my inbox unattended for a week.

    Overall, the reason gmail is succeeding isn't just the business plan, but the features make it more usable then hotmail or yahoo. In my opinion though, yahoo is still doing a much better job then hotmail, with its features.

    Having a hotmail account has no real benefits (it has the smaller space, you can get a passport without a hotmail account, they tend to get very spammy, and theres no "hotmail groups" which needs a hotmail account to sign up) and because of all the email addresses, its very hard to end up with a remotely decent email on it. Gmail has started to suffer the same problem, but I severely doubt it will ever suffer it as bad as hotmail or yahoo (yahoo for instance has different domains such as auzy@yahoo.com will accept the same emails as auzy@yahoo.co.uk, but someone might not realise it and sign up for both with different ID's, halving the total domains).

    Its not just about advertising, its about the usage. Everyone has a hotmail account they leave around for junk.. Which means that they are just gathering emails at the moment costing Microsoft in Bandwidth costs.

  • So, Google is using their software to match search keywords to ads on email to, and suddenly that's a "business model"? No of course not, it's a way to get more klick-throughs. It is an *improvement*. Nobody claimes a new "business model" because they have built a better mousetrap.

    A business model is rather from where you get revenues, or how you are organised. I get my money from consulting, and the software I'm building is free. Microsoft charges for their software. THAT is different business models.
  • "The new business model is what's allowing Gmail to offer 1 GB storage quotas, and still have an expectation of making money."

    Last I checked hard drives are less than $1/GB. I hardly think storage quotas are their biggest expense. The total compensation for the CEO is probably bigger than their entire cost of the gmail infrastructure.
    • Yeah, maybe for an OEM 5,400 RPM IDE drive, but how much for that 18k scsi drive that has a large chunk devoted to maintaining a raid 5 back up?
      • Google doesn't work that way. They use a distributed filesystem that runs on their cluster which consists of cheap PCs. Those PCs probably have 7200 rpm disks.
      • There was an interview with one of Google's top people in which he leaked a number about what they're paying for storage. Including the machine the drive goes in, the rack and rack space, the backup systems, the power and the cooling, he figures they're paying two dollars per gigabyte.
  • by freelunch ( 258011 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:31AM (#10812920)
    I remain disappointed with gmail.

    It still won't open messages in a new window. Is it so unnatural to want to view the message index in one window and open the messages in new windows while retaining my view of the index? I mean, some of us can chew gum and walk at the same time.

    On Yahoo, I can do this simply by middle clicking links. Not on gmail. Javascript and frames hell prevent it. As if that makes it "okay".

    I still can't find an option to get a traditional chronological view of my inbox. Gmail only seems to provide their threaded view. Many times, that view is not optimal.

    No folders. They do not support folders. Sure, they support filters. But I can't use a filter to put mail from a mailing list into a folder. This is good how? What alternative to folders are they providing?

    No option to show full headers by default.

    5% of the time, gmail says it is unavail when I try and login. A retry gets me in.

    It is great as an inbox for registering accounts, etc. But aside for the benefit of the 1GB causing everyone else to raise their quotas, it ain't that great.

    • by anakin357 ( 69114 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:53AM (#10813020) Homepage
      To get "folder-like" behavior, and this is kinda a hack, label the email conversation, then archive the email. Then click the link on the left and there you go, folders... kinda.
      • To get "folder-like" behavior, and this is kinda a hack, label the email conversation, then archive the email. Then click the link on the left and there you go, folders... kinda.

        It's not a hack at all; use one label per e-mail and you get folders. In every single respect. The only difference between labels and folders is that labels allow you to have the same e-mail in more than one 'folder'. If you don't use that functions the label act exactly as folders. I can't believe people are complaining labels

    • No folders. They do not support folders. Sure, they support filters. But I can't use a filter to put mail from a mailing list into a folder. This is good how? What alternative to folders are they providing?

      Yes, no folders. Instead they have categories, and yes, you can make a filter that places mail from a mailing list into a category, and you can choose whether that filter also removes the email from the inbox. I have a few filters that do this.

      I have no argument with the rest of your post, although man
    • > No folders. They do not support folders. Sure, they support filters. But I can't use a filter to put mail from a mailing list into a folder. This is good how? What alternative to folders are they providing?

      Maybe I'm missing something, but didn't you answer your own question? To get what is effectively a "Folder", use a filter to label the message..

      Filter: If subject contains *cocoa-dev*, apply label CocoaML, and skip the Inbox.

      It then is not shown in your inbox, but shows up as a new message in th
  • The author of the article neglected to mention another important advantage that Google has over its competition - google already had a thriving paid-for-advertising system ready (AdWords) ready to slot into Gmail. Yahoo has the Overture system, which although isn't anywhere near as big as AdWords would still be usable, but Microsoft has neither.

    While it's not out of the question that Microsoft could develop their own systems to sell targetted ads based on keywords on their email services they wouldn't have
  • Yahoo wins (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:37AM (#10812945)
    Whenever I sign up a non-technical user for a web mail account (so I don't have re-setup Outlook and hear how they lost all their email everytime their hard drive crashes), I always sign them up for a Yahoo account. Hotmail just plain sucks because they open links in email in a frame. Come on now - they've had that "feature" in there for years. When are they going to get rid of it? I thought when MS modified IE so that it didn't accept cookies in a frame they would HAVE to do it but apparently they didn't agree with me. As a result, clicking on links contained within a Hotmail message is useless.

    On the other hand, GMail is really nice. Part of the UI though I'm still up in the air as to whether it's more difficult for me to use because I'm not used to it or because it's just plain not better. For instance, I sent an email to approximately 40 people from my Gmail account and received a single response from just about all of them. Well all of those responses are lumped into a single unit called a conversation that I find very difficult to navigate/cleanup/etc. I know that's the point - that I'm never supposed to delete anything, but I think actually hitting that "ideal" might be counterproductive. So, I stick with Yahoo - especially since they added the ability to login using SSL. Can you believe for years you had to login with your password in plaintext!! And even now the "Standard" login is plaintext - you have to click on "Secure" mode to make sure nobody gets your login and password.
    • I may be mistaken, but I believe that the non-SSL Yahoo login has always used a JavaScripted MD5 challenge-response mechanism that protects you from sniffing. It won't protect you from a DNS spoofer the way SSL will, but a passive sniffer can't get your password even over the "standard" login.
    • SSL login for yahoo is nothing new. They've had it for several years now (I've been using Yahoo ever since they took over Geocities back in the day).
  • Market saturation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yup that's me ( 827290 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:39AM (#10812954)
    Business model aside, isn't the market pretty well saturated? I have a university address which uses my real name and is my rl address. When I graduate I get a grad address which will probably take on the same functionality. I have a yahoo account which I've held for the last five years with which I sign up to things that I reasonably trust but don't want to use my real name for. In particular I use it for newsletters. Then I have a dozen or so throw away accounts created for just one purpose, or for companies I don't trust at all. I don't *need* another account, and I have no reason to switch. I have a Gmail account, but no use for it. Yes, the searching would be quite nice, and so would decent spam filtering, but it's not enough to sway me off the other two. Most novices online will use their service-provided address. Maybe Gmail will grab their webmail accounts when they spread out, but these are less likely to be primary addresses. Most people who've been around a few months already have plenty of email addresses, and from my experience it takes a heck of a good reason to change.
  • by stesch ( 12896 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:42AM (#10812972) Homepage
    Gmail is still not ready. It's in its beta phase of development. You can't subcribe to it.
  • plug for fastmail.fm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Charles Dodgeson ( 248492 ) <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:48AM (#10813003) Homepage Journal
    Fastmail [fastmail.fm] is by far the best webmail/IMAP mail service I have ever seen. They really understand IMAP and what works for webmail.

    I have no affiliation other than being a happy customer.

  • by weave ( 48069 ) * on Sunday November 14, 2004 @11:57AM (#10813036) Journal
    A lot of emails are duplicated, results of cc lists, mailing lists, etc. Since google is already good at indexing web pages and caching stuff, if they applied the same sort of index/cache issue to emails and your gmail account was just really a list of references to the stashed messages, I bet they could reduce the space even further.

    The same goes for attachments. Somehow index them and store them seperately.

    For example, I was sent an Ashley Simpson 3mb attachment when that first came out, and I noticed 4 others on that message that had gmail accounts. How many other gmail users got that same attachment?

    • That has to be one of the best ideas I've read on Slashdot in a long time. Congratulations.

      By the way, indexing email attachments is very simple, just do it like a P2P network would: compute a hash on the attachment, store it along with the attachment's size and check for matches.

      Someone might complain about the possibility of collisions under this scheme. Now if a secure hash function were used (not MD5 as it has been broken) then the system would be, for all practical purposes, shielded from collisions:
    • if they applied the same sort of index/cache issue to emails and your gmail account was just really a list of references to the stashed messages, I bet they could reduce the space even further.

      It wouldn't work so easily for e-mails. If nothing else, the date and TO: address is going to be different, so no two messages will be identical... Well, a few will, but not many.

      They could get this to work, using some variation on CVS, but of course, then the job is to say, what other set of messages is this one

      • It wouldn't work so easily for e-mails. If nothing else, the date and TO: address is going to be different, so no two messages will be identical... Well, a few will, but not many.

        Right. I would think the headers would be stored literally and the body and attachments would just be a reference to the actual data stored in a common cesspool.

    • by hacker ( 14635 ) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @03:55PM (#10814151)
      "Since google is already good at indexing web pages and caching stuff, if they applied the same sort of index/cache issue to emails and your gmail account was just really a list of references to the stashed messages, I bet they could reduce the space even further."

      In fact, this is almost precisely how they do it. They take each incoming message, hash it, and store that hash and original message on their shards in their data management system, with a very fast lookup. Every time a new message is received or delivered, and matches an existing hash, the pointer to the original message is put into the user's mailbox. If a user deletes the message, the pointer to that message is removed from that user's mailbox.

      This means if 30 people subscribe to the Linux Kernel Mailing List (notorious for being incredibly high-traffic), and 1,000 messages are received in a day.. only 1,000 messages are stored, not 30,000. This not-only saves space, but it saves mailbox lookup time and increases speed of the system overall.

      Now, apply this to the spam problem. Spam email to one person (such as shopping advertisements for Sears) may not be spam to another person ("Hey, I need a new lawnmower at Sears!"). So those who mark it as spam, get the spam heuristic scoring weighted higher and applied to their incoming message hashes, and those who do not mark those same messages as spam, get a lower weighting.

      The system is actually pretty brilliant.

      Now, in response to the other person who claims that their 3MiB email sent to their sister and friends created copies of the message in their "Sent" folder, that makes perfect sense, because the message is different if you send it on different days or with different contents ("Hey Sally, check out these pictures!" "Here's some pictures for you, Bob."). They should be treated differently in the sending user's mailbox. But to the recipient, the attachment itself, is not getting duplicated.

      The precise reason Google can offer 1GiB mailboxes for every user, is because that 1GiB is "over-provisioned" across thousands of other users, much like how an ISP oversells their own bandwidth, knowing that all their customers won't saturate the entire pipe 24x7.

  • by geg81 ( 816215 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:11PM (#10813089)
    The biggest problem with the Gmail interface is that it uses so much JavaScript; it doesn't run at all on many handheld browsers. I think at least they need a simplified XHTML interface.

    The POP feature also makes no sense to me; it basically begs you to download messages from their servers when their stated goal is to collect lots of mail. If they offered IMAP access instead, people could keep their messages on the server. They could even use IMAP for placing subtle adds (e.g., message "1" is always some kind of simple ad, but unlike spam or hotmail, there would always only be one advertising message).

    An area where Gmail could really do something better is passwords: they really should offer one-time passwords for travelers. Right now, when traveling, there is a high chance with web-based mail that your password gets compromised.

    In any case, for fairly little money, you can get large mailboxes with IMAP interfaces from other companies, and you get a lot more control over them than with Gmail. Currently, Gmail's "free" isn't good enough for me to save the money I get with a commercial provider.
    • by geschild ( 43455 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @03:27PM (#10814016) Homepage

      If you want to climb on a horse over the implementation of the interface, remember that javascript works on more than IE alone. In this way most modern browsers are supported, admittedly not some of the simpler handhelds but hey, you can't please everyone. Most 'simpler' handhelds do Pop3 nowadays so they are/will be covered.

      Furthermore, if they would like to get on the Geeks good side they should make a XUL version of their interface. That would create the killer-app for XUL in one go.

    • >The POP feature also makes no sense to me; it basically begs you to download messages from their servers when their stated goal is to collect lots of mail.

      I agree with that 100%. I really don't have anything to add, I think you put it quite well.

  • I have always contended that e-mail is a very private medium. When we run e-mail services for our clients, we do not examine the contents of their mailboxes ever. We control spam via RBLs and it has proven to be more effective and offer a much higher degree of privacy.

    Likewise, the freebie web e-mail services are fine for goofing off, but I would never use such services for core communications. There is virtually no guarantee of privacy ever with any of those services. Their terms of service and privacy
  • It doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Walkiry ( 698192 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @01:43PM (#10813549) Homepage
    I was one of the "lucky" ones that had a 6 Mb Yahoo mail account (it was later trimmed down to... 4 Mb?) since I've had it for like 6 years.

    6 years. But then Goggle comes and in a matter of days my account is upgraded to 100 Mb. They couldn't really afford to do that for the last 6 years, yet as soon as a competitor shows up they start offering upgrades.

    Well, too bad, I'm going to Gmail and their targeted ads and I feel no remorse leaving behind Yahoo and their sucktastic advertising.
  • Great... (Score:2, Interesting)

    So now not only will my Hotmail account get lots of spam, I'll also get to see banner ads proclaiming the virtues of V|4gr4...

Almost anything derogatory you could say about today's software design would be accurate. -- K.E. Iverson

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