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Anniversary: ​​Gmail is celebrating 20 years

Anniversary: ​​Gmail is celebrating 20 years

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin loved pulling pranks, so much so that they began coming up with outlandish ideas every April Fool's Day, shortly after founding their company more than a quarter century ago. One year, Google Posted a vacancy Copernicus Research Center on the Moon. Another year, the company said I planned to introduce “scratch and sniff” Feature on its search engine.

The jokes were constantly so exaggerated that people learned to laugh at them as another example of the harm caused by Google. That's why Page and Brin decided to reveal something no one thought possible 20 years ago on April Fool's Day.

He was Gmail, a free service with 1 GB of storage Per account, an amount that seems almost normal in the age of 1TB iPhones. But it seemed like an absurd amount of email capacity at the time, enough to store about 13,500 emails before running out of space compared to only 30 to 60 emails in the leading webmail services of the time operated by Yahoo and Microsoft. This translates to 250 to 500 times more email storage space.

Along with the quantum leap in storage, Gmail is also equipped with Google Search technology so users can quickly retrieve information from an old email, photo, or other personal information stored on the service. It also automatically brings together a series of communications on the same topic so everything flows together as if it were one conversation.

“The original pitch we put together was about the three Cs — storage, search and speed,” said Marissa Mayer, a former Google executive who helped design Gmail and the company's other products before later becoming CEO of Yahoo.

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The concept was so mind-boggling that shortly after the Associated Press published a story about Gmail late in the afternoon of April Fools' Day in 2004, readers began calling and emailing to inform the news agency that they had been scammed by Google scammers. .

“That was part of the magic, making a product that people wouldn't believe was real. “It changed people's perceptions about the types of applications that were possible within a web browser,” Paul Bouchette, a former Google engineer, said during an AP interview. Recently about his efforts to create Gmail.

It took three years as part of a project called “Caribou” — a reference to a running gag in Dilbert's comic strip. “There was something silly about the name Caribou,” said Bouchette, the 23rd employee hired at a company that now employs more than 180,000 people. “It made me laugh.”

The AP knew Google wasn't kidding about Gmail because an AP reporter was asked to come down from San Francisco to the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, to see something that would make the trip worthwhile.

After arriving at the company's still-developing campus that would soon blossom into what became known as the “Googleplex,” an AP reporter was escorted into a small office where Page was grinning evilly as he sat in front of his laptop.

Page, then just 31 years old, proceeded to demonstrate his sleekly designed Gmail inbox and showed how quickly it could run inside Microsoft's now-discontinued Explorer web browser. He noted that there is no delete button in the main control window because it would not be necessary, since Gmail has a large storage space and is easily searchable. “I think people are going to really like this,” Paige predicted.

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As with many other things, Page was right. Gmail now has an estimated 1.8 billion active accounts — each account now offering 15GB of free storage bundled with Google Photos and Google Drive. Although this is 15 times more storage than Gmail initially offered, it's still not enough for many users who rarely see the need to purge their accounts, just as Google had hoped.

Digital storage of email, photos and other content is why Google, Apple and other companies make money selling extra storage capacity in their data centers. (In Google's case, it charges anywhere from $30 per year for 200GB of storage to $250 per year for 5TB of storage.) The presence of Gmail is also the reason why other free email services and internal email accounts that employees use at their jobs offer much more storage space than was known 20 years ago.

“We were trying to change the way people were thinking because people had been operating in this model of storage scarcity for so long that deletion had become a default,” Bouchette said.

Gmail has been a game-changer in many other ways, while becoming the first building block in expanding Google's Internet empire beyond its still-dominant search engine.

After Gmail came Google Maps and Google Docs along with word processing and spreadsheet applications. Then came the acquisition of the video site YouTube, followed by the launch of the Chrome browser and the Android operating system, which powers most smartphones in the world. And with Gmail's openly stated intention to scan the content of emails to gain a better understanding of users' interests, Google has also left little doubt that digital surveillance in the pursuit of selling more advertising will be part of its growing ambitions.

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Although it immediately caused a sensation, Gmail started out with a limited scope because Google initially only had enough computing capacity to support a small audience of users.

“When we launched, we only had 300 machines, and they were very old machines that no one wanted,” Bouchette said with a laugh. “We only had enough capacity for 10,000 users, which is a bit ridiculous.”

But this scarcity has created an air of exclusivity around Gmail that has fueled a feverish demand for the elusive invitations to sign up. At one point, invitations to open a Gmail account were selling for $250 each on eBay. “It's become like a social currency, where people go and say, 'Hey, I got a Gmail invitation, do you want one?'” Bouchheit said.

Although signing up for Gmail became increasingly easier as more massive data centers in Google's network came online, the company didn't start accepting all comers to the email service until it opened the door wide as a Valentine's Day gift to the world in 2007. .

A few weeks later, on April Fool's Day 2007, Google announced a new feature called “Gmail Paper” that gave users the opportunity to have Google print their email archives on “94% post-consumer organic soy.” Saliva Then send it to them via the postal service. Google was really kidding at the time.