An important milestone in the world of technology occurred this week. Gmail turned 15. Learning this news, It seems like something we’ve always had at this point, so you really have to think back and remember what life was like before we had Gmail. You were probably using AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, or an email belonging to your own domain or that of your employer.
Looking back on your time with Google’s email service, has it changed anything for you? Would your tech life be the same without Gmail?
Sayak still remembers the day one of his chat friends offered him his first access to Gmail. When it first started, the service was on an invitation-only basis. Now it has replaced his other webmail providers. “Yahoo is dead. Hotmail is in a coma. AOL anyone? Every other webmail provider looks like a front for a pharmaceutical pills company.”
He feels it comes down to a matter of reputation and trust as well. He saw that people were more likely to respond to him on Gmail than an email from his own domain. He does wish there was a Gmail alternative because the editor is not very user-friendly, but he’s stuck, as so much of his life revolves around using Gmail.
Alex notes that from the moment it was released, Gmail quickly became the only serious free email service. “It blew the competition out of the water so thoroughly that email isn’t even something that’s advertised anymore. It’s the de facto default.”
However, like Sayak, he finds himself “attempting to escape its clutches.” He’s become uncomfortable with the amount of information that “Google tracks on a large chunk of humanity” and has resolved to find an alternative, although he has found there really isn’t one. He does not believe in paying for email since Gmail decided it should be free. But now he feels trapped “for better or worse … probably worse.”
Damien is another who is looking for an alternative. He got all the way to setting up his own email service, but the experience was just different for him. “Even though Google mines a lot of information about you, there is no doubt that Gmail is still the best.”
Ryan seems to remember that when Gmail launched it was offering 1GB of free storage, and that was unheard of at the time. He was still using AOL, then “discovered that Gmail didn’t have an annoying computerized voice that screamed, ‘You’ve got mail!’ “ at him every time he checked his inbox. His jump to Gmail was one of the easiest he has ever made.
Phil realizes this doesn’t hold true any more, but in the beginning of the tech boom, “it was real cred to have a Gmail address because it was invite-only mainly, but it proved you were connected.” He believes a little of that cred has rubbed off on the modern users of the service. Hotmail and Yahoo don’t get his attention, but Gmail does.
Elsie feels Gmail has made her life and work so much easier. She’s had a Yahoo account that she hasn’t signed into or used for decades, but when she signs into one, such as when she’s helping her mom with hers, it all just seems strange and hard to navigate. “But Gmail is user-friendly, organized, and simple.”
Like the others, I’ve used all the services too. I started with AOL and moved on to Yahoo. With both I had such trouble with spam. I switched to Gmail and don’t have near the problems with it. Additionally, you can have a Gmail with your own domain, which heightens the appreciation of it. Like Alex, I don’t want to pay for it either, but I did break down and pay for the SaneBox service to organize my email, but that’s only because I am missing the organization I had with the Inbox app. I may never forgive Google for getting rid of that.
Do you agree with our writers? Are you looking for an alternative but finding Gmail too hard to beat? Can you remember back to when it was invite-only? Let us know your experience. Would your tech life be the same without Gmail? Add your thoughts to the comments below.