Anniversary: ​​Gmail turns 20

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin loved pulling pranks, so shortly after starting their company a quarter-century ago they started releasing outlandish ideas every April Fool's Day. One year, Google Posted a job offer to the Copernicus Research Center on the Moon. Another year, the company said It planned a “scratch and sniff” release feature in its search engine.

Jokes continued to abound as people learned to laugh at another example of Google mischief. That's why 20 years ago on April Fool's Day, Page and Brin decided to publish something no one believed.

It was Gmail is a free service that boasts 1 gigabyte of storage Per calculation, a terabyte is an almost pedestrian amount in the age of iPhones. But it had enough email capacity to store about 13,500 emails before running out of space, compared to just 30 to 60 emails on the leading webmail services run by Yahoo and Microsoft. This translates to 250 to 500 times more email storage space.

In addition to quantum leaps in storage, Gmail also includes Google's search technology so users can quickly retrieve information from old email, photos or other personal information stored on the service. It automatically joins together a string of communications about the same topic so everything flows together as if it were a single conversation.

“The original pitch was we put together the three 'S's: storage, search and speed,” said former Google executive Marissa Mayer, who helped design Gmail and other enterprise products and later became Yahoo's CEO.

It was a mind-blowing proposition, and shortly after the Associated Press broke the story about Gmail on the afternoon of April Fool's Day 2004, readers began calling and emailing the news agency to report that it had been duped by Google's pranksters.

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“That was part of the appeal, creating a product that people didn't believe was real. It changed people's minds about possible applications in a web browser,” former Google engineer Paul Buchheit recalled during a recent AP interview about his efforts to build Gmail.

It took three years as part of a project called “Caribo,” a reference to the gag that ran in the Dilbert comic strip. “There was something kind of absurd about the name Caribou that made me laugh,” said Buchheit, the 23rd employee to be hired at a company that now employs more than 180,000 people.

The AP knows Google isn't kidding about Gmail, because an AP reporter was suddenly asked to come from San Francisco to the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., to see something that might make the trip worthwhile.

After arriving at the still-burgeoning corporate complex known as the “Googleplex,” the AP reporter was ushered into a small office where Page sat in front of his laptop computer and wore an impish grin.

Page, then just 31 years old, went on to show off Gmail's sleekly designed inbox and demonstrate how quickly it ran on Microsoft's now-retired Explorer web browser. He pointed out that the main control window doesn't feature a delete button because it's not needed, and because Gmail has so much storage, it's easy to search. “I think people are going to love it,” Page predicted.

As with many things, the page was perfect. Gmail now has 1.8 billion active accounts — each now offering 15 gigabytes of free storage with Google Photos and Google Drive. While that's 15 times more storage than Gmail initially offered, it's still not enough for many users who rarely see the need to delete their accounts, as Google hoped.

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Google, Apple and other companies now make money by selling extra storage capacity in their data centers, a digital hoard of email, photos and other content. (In Google's case, charges range from $30 annually for 200 gigabytes of storage to $250 annually for 5 terabytes of storage). The existence of Gmail, other free email services, and the internal email accounts that employees use for their jobs is the reason why more storage space is available than 20 years ago.

“We've tried to change the way people think, because people have been working in this model of savings deficits for so long that elimination has become the default,” Buchheit said.

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

Gmail was followed by Google Maps and Google Docs, along with word processing and spreadsheet applications. Then came the acquisition of video platform YouTube, followed by the introduction of the Chrome browser and the Android operating system that powers most of the world's smartphones. With Gmail's stated intention to scan the content of emails to better understand users' interests, Google will no doubt be part of its expanding ambitions to sell more ads.

Although it immediately created a buzz, Gmail was launched with limited scope, as Google initially only had enough computing power to support a small audience.

“When we launched, we only had 300 machines, and they were really old machines that nobody else wanted,” Buchheit said with a laugh. “We only had enough capacity for 10,000 users, which was a little ridiculous.”

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But that lack created an air of exclusivity around Gmail, which led to a strong demand for elusive invitations to sign up. At one point, invitations to open a Gmail account were selling for $250 on eBay. “It became a social currency where people would go, 'Hey, I got a Gmail invite, do you want one?'” Buchheit said.

Although signing up for Gmail became much easier as Google's massive network of data centers came online, the company didn't accept all comers to the email service until it opened the floodgates to the world in 2007 as a Valentine's Day gift.

A few weeks later on April Fools' Day 2007, Google would announce a new feature called “Gmail Paper”, which would give users the option to print their email archive on what Google described as “94% post-consumer organic soybeans. cold “And then send it to them through the postal service. Google was having fun at the time.

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