Thursday, April 22, 2004


So it seems one of the few benefits of using Blogger is the free invitation for a Gmail account that I got for being a "frequent" Blogger user (I was kind of bummed when I saw people talking about this yesterday and hadn't seen my Gmail invitation on my Blogger login page -- I consider myself a frequent blogger).

Now I have a Gmail account. It's everything that you've heard about it:
- 1000 megs (1 gig) free storage for all your e-mail (they even tell you to archive everything and not delete)
- The dreaded privacy policy. Yes they are looking at all of your e-mail, but let me ask you this question -- can't your IT department look at all the e-mail you are getting on your company machine? I'm sure they can monitor your Internet usage -- you know, when you log onto your web-based mail. Granted, they're not sending you advertising based on the content (at least not yet).

- Spam controls are included. Because I literally just opened the account 2 minutes ago, the only e-mail I've received has been the welcome note from the Gmail team, so I can't really tell you how well the spam filter works, but I'll keep you posted.

- Unique labeling and starring tags for messages to "make them easier to find" (at least in the case of the stars) and to organize them in an easier way in the case of the labels.

- Search. This is where the thing really shines. The search interface is more intuitive than the X1 interface. And because the storage space of my inbox (don't think of the inbox as an Outlook PST, think of it as your inbox at work having a 1 gig storage limit -- the difference being that your inbox is stored server-side, while your PST is stored to your hard drive) is 1 gig, I don't need special software like X1 to search through all my PST files. The only difference between this and X1 is that there does not seem to be the ability to search text inside attachments (although I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard for the Gmail people to implement).

- There does not seem to be a way to import all of my Outlook contacts into Gmail. Now what would be really cool was if Gmail interfaced with my contacts in Plaxo because my Plaxo contacts are constantly updated from my Outlook address book. In this way, Gmail would be my mail service (it appears they're pretty good at doing that) and Plaxo would be my contact manager (and I know that they're really good at that). Just an idea.

- There is not integration with my Blogger account. For example, there is no option for me to move over into Blogger from Gmail or vice versa. I figure if you've authenticated me once, maybe you can give me access to both? Maybe not. Also, it would be kind of cool to be able to post e-mail content directly to my Blogger blog. Sort of like this product that allows direct posting from Outlook (Socble uses it, you can see his Outlook blog here), but completely web-based.

- The conversation threading seems pretty cool. If you open one message, it will display the entire series of replies to the message as a conversation. The display essentially looks like a discussion group, which is very interesting. I wonder if they plan on implementing an instant messaging client (or connecting to an existing client like AIM) and allowing the conversation text to become part of the conversation -- that would be interesting.

- There's no option for me to put a Gmail icon on my Google Toolbar. What would be really cool is if I signed into Gmail in the morning and the Toolbar let me know when I had new messages, I could click a button to compose direct from the toolbar, etc. I'm sure this is coming.

As a sidebar to this post, here's a story about California Sen. Liz Figueroa who has actually introduced a bill that specifically targets Gmail service.

From the article:

"Figueroa's bill says that an e-mail or instant messaging provider can scan outgoing messages from its users, but not incoming ones. It includes a narrow exception for spam and virus filtering."

Ok, so I better never forward a message with the text of the original one included. Give me a break! Look, Gmail gave my plenty of chances to opt out of the service when I signed up. I read privacy policies (sort of) before I agree to them. I'm a grown-up and can make my own decisions, if I don't want Gmail reading through my e-mail, I'll simply have e-mail I don't want them reading sent to another address -- there are plenty of other free and pay services that do not read through your mail (of course, they also don't offer the search functionality or as much storage).

Let's be honest. Our credit card activity is tracked by credit card companies who then market directly to us and sell buying pattern data and mailing lists to marketing companies. Our magazine subscription activity and free catalog activity drives the offers we receive in the mail -- I don't remember getting chances to opt out of that (or opt into it).

Here's my simple thought: If you don't want Gmail to read your mail to produce ads that pay for the free e-mail service, don't sign up.

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