Google marks 20 years of Gmail

02nd April 2024
Google marks 20 years of Gmail

By Anand Parthasarathy

When Google first announced the launch of its free email service, Gmail on April 1, 2004, many thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank:  a search engine offering  to help send email?  How bizarre!

But it was no joke and millions opened personal Gmail accounts enticed by the huge amount of storage offered – 1000 Megabytes (MB) or 1 Gigabyte (GB), compared to what a competitor like Microsoft’s Hotmail was offering then—2 MB.

Today Gmail has 1.2 billion users worldwide, serving 22% of the world’s population -- and in some countries, it is by far the dominant email client in use. Like India. And Indonesia.

In these two nations, according to World Population Review, Gmail’s share of email users is 82.4% and 82.6% respectively, the highest in the world. In comparison, the US does not make even the top ten of users, with a market share of 41.9%. Apple’s mail client dominates the American market. In the UK, Gmail has a 30% share.

Its dominance in India is due in no small measure to Google’s canny appreciation of the role local languages play: Today in addition to English, Gmail offers versions in 9 languages:   Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu  and Urdu– the widest  range of languages for any one country.

User hunger for mailing  images and video has far outstripped that initial largesse of 1 GB storage – and Gmail which today offers 15 GB across Gmail, Photos and Google Drive ( combined)  is less generous than Microsoft that offers Outlook users 15 GB plus 5GB for OneDrive. Both these email clients have been blown away, storage-wise at least by Yahoo mail which  today offers 1 terabyte (TB) or 1000 GB of storage.

Heightened security instituted

On its 20th birthday Gmail  is playing it relatively low key, and  has marked  occasion  by announcing new security rules  which aim to address  account holders’ travails with  unsolicited  commercial emails,  increasing levels of spam and malicious, scam-tainted  messaging.

Gmail  has  put in place new rules to regulate bulk mail senders  -- that is, those who send 5000 messages or more in one go, even those who try to camouflage their action by sending from multiple sub domains.  Heightened levels of authentication have been instituted.

Neil Kumaran, Google Group Product Manager for Gmail
Gmail’s group product manager,  San Francisco Bay-area based  Neil Kumaran, who has been with Google for just under 10 years and  who  lead the teams responsible for Enterprise, Security, and Trust & Safety across Gmail and Chat,  is quoted by  Forbes saying  these new measures will  validate that the messages are originating from the source as claimed and will help eliminate loopholes that attackers use to threaten everyone who uses email.

Coming on the eve of the General Elections, the world’s largest electoral exercise,  these measures will be seen to  be very timely for India.

In other ways too, India looms front and centre for Google and Gmail.   Karan Bhatia, Google’s Washington DC-based global head of government affairs and public policy told PTI last year: "India is one of our most important markets around the world. It's really a second home to us. We've been in the country for almost two decades now. We have thousands of employees there. It is both a source of incredible talent and innovation that really help create and empower Google products around the world."

This has appeared in NewIndiaAbroad