Gmail is twenty years old today


Today, Monday April 1, marks exactly twenty years since Google launched its own email service: Gmail. The company itself talks about revolutionizing email. Has Gmail really changed that much?


The revolutionary thing about Gmail was its capacity. 1 gigabyte for each account. Until the arrival of Gmail, the storage capacity of the free email service Hotmail was 2 megabytes. Yahoo mailboxes had a capacity of 4 or 6 megabytes. Nowadays no one can imagine that.


In response to the arrival of Gmail, Microsoft rapidly expanded its own mailboxes. Up to 250 megabytes was free, above that you had to pay. Yahoo set the bar at 100 megabytes. That was also the maximum volume for paying customers. They were given “virtually unlimited space” at their disposal for a fee.

While Microsoft and Yahoo were still trying to make money from paid mail services and trying to continue selling storage as a separate service, that didn’t matter to Google.

From this perspective, Gmail has indeed turned the market upside down. Free e-mail was not new, but the number of e-mails that could be stored was unimaginable. Combining space for mail and storage and thus file sharing was completely new. And all that for free.


Things have changed since then. With Free and Unlimited, consumers now know that there is always fine print. Free also means that there is zero guarantee of availability and continuity. That’s why so many users have multiple email and storage accounts. Paid services for valuables or work and free for everything else. Gmail has emphatically not taken over the email market. From the looks of it, the market has even become broader and more differentiated


Gmail with 1 gigabyte was also the starting point for massive use of the cloud for storage. We find it very normal that an office package nowadays has x gigabytes of storage capacity. Maybe that’s thanks to a free email service. The 20th anniversary of Gmail therefore deserves some attention.

The article is in Dutch

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