by adam mathes
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Gmail - the g is for gigabytes, or Take My Data, Please!

I have a lot of things to write about, but I don’t seem to ever be getting around to it.

Google has launched (sort of) their Gmail email service. (Sidenote - is the name gmail an attempt to create a product name easily turned into a verb?)

It will, apparently, offer users the ability to store up to a gigabyte of email. (Not enough for Adam Rifkin, but 1gb is more than most people have accumulated since they’ve been using the internet, and likely will accumulate in many years of using it.)

Google to offer gigabyte of free e-mail -

Hotmail currently offers 2MB of free e-mail storage. Yahoo offers 4MB. Gmail will dwarf those offerings with a 1GB storage limit.

Google plans to make money from the service by inserting advertisements into messages based in part on their content, effectively extending its AdWords program for presenting contextual ads in Web pages to e-mail.

“The idea is that your mail can stay in there forever,” said Wayne Rosing, vice president of engineering at Google. “You can always index it, always search it, and always find things from the past.”

A gigabyte of storage? Supported by ads? It seems crazy at first, but according to one gem in the New York Times article Google Planning to Roll Out E-Mail Service -

The standard industry practice is to offer tiered mail services, providing only limited storage for free and charging higher fees to users who want to preserve larger numbers of e-mail messages. Google, by contrast, is planning a service to be supported by advertising that will permit its users to store very large amounts of mail at no cost.

One internal Google study put the operational cost of maintaining electronic mail storage at less than $2 per gigabyte. (emphasis added)

What time period this $2 is over (ie, does the cost of storage approximate $2 a day, month, or year) is not really clear. Regardless, assuming this isn’t an absurd over-exaggeration, Gmail could be considered a success in some sense if it makes more than $2 in advertising revenue per gigabyte of stored email. I think it’s safe to assume Google can clear this hurdle. Some quick math: 1gb = 1024 megabytes = 1048576 kilobytes. Assuming messages vary between 10kb and 100kb that means about 104,857 messages per $2 of storage, give or take an order of magnitude. Let’s say half a million messages per gigagyte.

By storing gigabytes and gigabytes of content that was previously inaccessible to Google’s overzealous spiders, Google could (and would be crazy not to) mine this information, and not just for personalized advertising directly on the page. If dynamically indexing weblogs and such is a decent way to get a look at trends in what’s new and emerging, imagine if you could get at the email of the world in real-time. Want to see if your new ad campaign for the latest advertising blitz for a television show is effective amongst 18-24 females in eastern US cities? You could immediately tell if there was a spike in the television show’s name for users registered in those areas in that age group. (I haven’t signed up for the service, or even seen it, but I think it’s a safe bet they’ll at least require an age and location at signup.)

Whether this is a brilliant business idea or a terrifyingly evil prospect is left as an exercise for the reader.

Another point, while some companies are trying to make the data on your computer better organized and searchable, the sorts of things I was talking about yesterday, Google has been noticeably absent from any attempt to extend its searching to the individual user’s desktop.

I find it very interesting that Google has decided to apparently forgo that strategy entirely and instead have a hosted, networked, email web application.

Remember: The Network Is The Computer.

Google isn’t Netscape. It’s Netscape and Sun - together. Long live the 90’s! Pass me a thin client!

(He writes and laughs nervously as he types the words into a web application’s textarea, that will send the words to a database on a server in Texas.)

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