How Gmail Happened

1 April 2014Technology

Harry McCracken, writing for TIME about the development of Gmail, which launched ten years ago today:

The first true landmark service to emerge from Google since its search engine debuted in 1998, Gmail didn’t just blow away Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the dominant free webmail services of the day. With its vast storage, zippy interface, instant search and other advanced features, it may have been the first major cloud-based app that was capable of replacing conventional PC software, not just complementing it.

It’s hard to believe that Gmail has been around for ten years. It feels like just a few years ago that we were all trying to get by with our 5 MB webmail accounts from Hotmail or Yahoo.

As a side note, in the fall of 2002, I and three other students came up with a business plan for a Business 201 group project at university. Our product was to be called GimmeMail and it was going to offer free web-based email accounts with 20 MB of storage (400% more than competitors at the time). We had a marketing plan based on a survey of web users, compelling financial estimates, a working prototype, and even a draft logo:

GimmeMail Logo

We didn’t pursue the project past getting a good grade, but looking back at our pitch presentation today it’s kind of fun to realize that at the same time a small team at Google was hard at work developing a similar ‘G’-mail product that would go on to change the web.