The Gmail Ripple Effect

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With the advent of Google’s Gmail, a multitude of search engines, portals, and general-purpose sites have followed suit by offering enhanced email services, including increasing storage capacities.

Discuss Gmail’s effect on the email industry at WebProWorld.

How Does Gmail's Competition Stack Up?...
How Does Gmail’s Competition Stack Up?…

On April 1st of this year, Google announced the launch of their email service, called Gmail. The service, while offering the standard bells and whistles found on most other email providers, did boast a tantalizing feature that, up until that point, had been unheard of: an online storage amount of 1 gigabyte.

Gmail’s beta launch caused a personification of the ripple affect, not all of it directed at the storage capacity. In order to “pay” for this venture, Google announced that Gmail mailings would feature contextually placed ads that appear as a result of Gmail scanning emails, and then positioning them accordingly.

Google’s actions with Gmail caused the rest of the email world to take notice as well as action. Soon after the launch of Gmail, numerous sites popped up offering email accounts with large storage capacities. Established email service providers, like Yahoo and MSN’s Hotmail, reacted as well.

The first company to jump into the email wave was Spymac. Five days after Google announced the beta launch of Gmail, the Mac-based hosting company entered the fray. Spymac, like Gmail, offers 1 gigabyte of email storage. However, unlike Google’s service, they do not scan emails for the purposes of placing ads.

Spymac allows you to search your email, something Hotmail hasn’t even incorporated yet. Spymac also offers POP3 support, something Gmail does not currently. From Gmail’s about page:

6. Does Gmail support automatic forwarding and POP3 access?

Not at the moment In the future you will be able to access Gmail messages from non-Gmail accounts for free or at a nominal fee.

A month or so after Gmail’s beta and Spymac’s operational services launched, Lycos and Walla! Communications announced they would be offering email services that would include the exalted gigabyte storage amount.

The Lycos email service costs 3.49 a month, although when you sign up for a Lycos account, you also receive “an email with your own domain.” The company describes this feature as:

“If your family name is Howard, you could get the domain howard.net and let up to 50 members of your family have their own address and mail box.”

This means that each email address can support up to 50 additional email accounts. Such a feature makes Lycos’ email service unique.

Walla’s email service, which was launched on July 7th, employs a similar tactic to Gmail’s contextual ad placement. Walla intends on collecting revenue by serving ads based on, according to an email from a Walla! Spokesperson:

“(I)nformation (members) voluntarily provide during registration of a new account (demographic and geographic information). The ads displayed have no contextual relationship to the text of a specific email. Walla!Mail does not scan email text and derive from its content what are a user’s Interests, etc.”

Furthermore, for an annual fee of $14.99, users can receive ad-free memberships. One feature that makes Walla!Mail stand out is the allowable size of attachments. Emails that are sent to other Walla! members can have attachments up to 30MB in size. This is only exceeded by Lycos’ allowance of 50MB attachments to members who are sending mail. Lycos has no restriction on the size of attachments that are received by members. Gmail attachments cannot exceed 10MB.

Shortly after Lycos and Walla! announced their intentions, the Gmail ripple effect extended even further. In one case, it went all the way to Middle Earth. Within six days of each other, AventureMail and Shiremail launched their respective services. Shiremail, an email service of Planet-Tolkien.com, offers the obligatory gigabyte storage capacity, but does not place ads within emails. However, they do charge 3.50 a month for memberships.

AventureMail membership is akin to the horse being led by the carrot. On their home page, Aventure offers 2 types of service, paid and unpaid. Both services allocate a whopping 2 gigabytes of storage. However, AventureMail appears to have put a cap on the amount of free members it will accept. If you try to sign up for its free membership, you are taken to a page that states:

“We are currently not accepting new registrations. Accounts can be purchased in our store (http://www.aventuremail.co.uk/store) in the mean time.”

I am of the belief that if a service wants members to pay, they shouldn’t offer an unpaid option. Try giving accounts away in contests or something similar. AventureMail’s paid accounts cost $21.95, $41.95, and $65.95, with each membership level offering higher storage amounts and more features.

Finally, the ripples created by Gmail’s beta launch reached the heavy hitters, Yahoo and MSN’s Hotmail, two of the most popular email services on the Internet. Each company practically mimicked each other in the updating of storage amounts and email services.

Both portals offer two types of memberships, unpaid and paid. Unpaid members receive a nominal storage upgrade (100MB for Yahoo members, 250MB for Hotmail), while the both paid services offer users 2 gigabytes for $19.95 a year. Each service also allows 10MB attachments.

Last, but definitely not least, Ask Jeeves decided to upgrade its email storage amount and services for its portal websites. While the search engine itself does not offer email service, Ask Jeeves, Inc. owns the rights to the Interactive Search Holdings properties. The portal sites under these holdings are My Way, iWon and Excite.com. Each site is offering email accounts with 125MB of storage, while Excite.com, for the standard fee of $19.95 a year, is offering email accounts with a storage capacity of 2 gigs.

As you can see, the effect that Gmail’s introduction had on the email industry was large, to say the least. Once Google announced the launch, reaction was almost instant. Say what you will about Gmail’s policy of scanning emails for ad purposes; however, do not underestimate the “cause-and-effect” ability of Google. To say Google is an Internet trendsetter would be, in this case, an understatement.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

The Gmail Ripple Effect
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