Gmail: I Am One of the Lucky Few

Today I feel like Charlie when he found the golden ticket inside of the Wonka Bar! The reason for this excitement? Well, I have been chosen as one of the "lucky few" who have been invited to try Google's Gmail. When I say lucky few, I am probably one of a few hundred thousand to be asked by Google to participate. Currently Gmail is still in its testing phase, so there is currently only one way to get a Gmail account... you must be invited (yes, it does sound a bit hoity-toity).

What is Gmail?

Before I explain how to get a Gmail account, you may be asking, "What the heck is Gmail anyway?" Well, let me tell you with a description plagiarized directly from Google...

"As part of Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful, we're testing an email service called Gmail.

"Gmail is a free, search-based webmail service that includes 1,000 megabytes (1 gigabyte) of storage. The backbone of Gmail is a powerful Google search engine that quickly finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again.

"When Gmail displays an email, it automatically shows all the replies to that email as well, so users can view a message in the context of a conversation. There are no pop-ups or untargeted banner ads in Gmail, which places relevant text ads and links to related web pages adjacent to email messages."

How Do You Get A Gmail Account?

Gmail is still in its testing phase, so Google is not allowing you to sign-up for an account. As I said above, currently the only way to get a Gmail account is to receive an invitation. You can receive an invitation in one of two accepted methods:

1. You must be invited by Google
2. You must be invited by a current Gmail member

I am not sure why I received an invitation for I do not know anyone with a Gmail account. I have heard rumors that Google was giving it to members of the Blogging community, but I have not been able to verify this rumor. I was not about to question my gift, so I signed up before they decided sending an invitation to me was a mistake! ;-)

The Gmail Invitation Frenzy

To be quite honest, I have known about Gmail for quite sometime. I tried to get an account in the summer, but I couldn't. Since then, I have seen some articles on Gmail, but nothing big. I had no idea that there is an entire subculture dedicated to selling Gmail invites.

Apparently, as a Gmail user, Google periodically gives you a few invitations that you can send to anyone you want. They give you the power to choose who else can be in the club! Let me show you a simple equation:

(Power + Demand) * eBay = $$$ and Craziness

It was not long before people started to sell their Gmail invitations. eBay was, of course, the biggest marketplace for Gmail invites. The invitations went for upwards of $40 or more!!! Google tried to put a stop to this by amending the Gmail terms of service to not allow the selling of invitations, but it has not seemed to work. I saw on one website that a guy was selling his Gmail invites for $30 Walmart gift cards! Not too long from now Gmail will be free for everyone! Some people just can't wait.

Do I Have Any Gmail Invitations?

Before I go on, I must say that I currently do not have any Gmail invitations at my disposal. I do not know if or when I will ever receive any to give out. From what I have seen, Google has been giving between 1 and 5 Gmail invitations to its new members. All I can tell you is that if I do receive any, I will not be selling them.

Is Gmail worth the Hoopla?

I have only been using Gmail for a few hours, so I cannot accurately comment on the service yet. I can say this, Gmail brings a new approach to managing your e-mail. It is more than just hotmail with a lot more space. They bring a fresh approach to managing your messages. After I have used it for a while, I will post my thoughts on the product/service.

The Gmail Catch

C'mon, you have been waiting for this the entire time... what is the catch? As far as I can tell, the only catch is targeted ads. This part may seem creepy and bring visions of George Orwell's 1984. Next to your e-mail message, out of the way, but in view will be advertisements. At first this does not seem to obtrusive, for it is similar to most free, web e-mail. In Gmail's case, the ads are chosen by the e-mail message that you are reading. The ads are targeted at you due to the content of your e-mail! Does this mean that someone at Google is reading your e-mail and choosing the ads? No. Gmail scans your e-mail and chooses the ads based on a computer algorithm.

I have grabbed a few lines from the Gmail FAQ and merged them below:

"All major free webmail services carry advertising, and most of it is irrelevant to the people who see it. Google believes that showing relevant advertising offers more value to users than displaying random pop-ups or untargeted banner ads. [Also,] all email services scan your email. They do this routinely to provide such popular features as spam filtering, virus detection, search, spellchecking, forwarding, auto-responding, flagging urgent messages, converting incoming email into cell phone text messages, automatic saving and sorting into folders, converting text URLs to clickable links, and reading messages to the blind. These features are widely accepted, trusted, and used by hundreds of millions of people every day.

"Google scans the text of Gmail messages in order to filter spam and detect viruses, just as all major webmail services do. Google also uses this scanning technology to deliver targeted text ads and other related information. This is completely automated and involves no humans."

My Final Thoughts

Having a free, 1GB e-mail account is pretty freakin' cool or as we say in Boston, "Wicked Pissa!" I am willing to give it a try as a secondary e-mail account. 1GB of e-mail storage is massive! It is the perfect account when you need to receive large files or maybe use it as a backup for your primary account. Also, you are able to connect via POP3. This means that you can setup Outlook, Entourage, Mail, Eudora, etc. to pull down your Gmail. You do not have to use the Gmail web interface, but to Google the web interface is the whole point.

The fact that I now have an e-mail address that is not on any spammer's list, is very appealing to me!

-- Bill

More Gmail Info

Posted: Fri - January 14, 2005 at 11:46 PM        

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