By: Daniel Dore

‘You’ve Got Mail’ Is Grammatically Incorrect.

April 1st is a date known for many things; the least of which certainly is April Fools Day in many countries (which, as many schoolchildren can tell you, is because on April 1, 1572, Dutch rebels who called themselves Geuzen, after the French word for beggars “gueux,” seized a town called Den Briel, marking the start of an uprising against the Spanish across the Netherlands[citation probably needed] ). It’s also the day that, in 1748, the ruins of Pompeii found were found and in 1976, the day two men named Stephen Wozniak and Steven Jobs founded Apple Computer. It’s also the day that, in 2004, Google announced a new email service called GMail. It was seen as a joke – a webmail account with 1 gigabyte of space? At a time when most companies were offering between 1-10 megabytes? Oh, those wacky Google guys and their jokes… But it was no joke; a select number of people were blessed with accounts and invites to give out to their friends. These invites became very valuable commodities and, I must admit, I received one of these invites in May 2004 from a friend of mine named E.Bay.

The fallout from this was immediate; all the popular email services drastically increased their inbox sizes (for example, Microsoft’s Hotmail increased from 10MB to 250MB) in response in order to “keep up” and take advantage of the new revenue model Google introduced:

For years, webmail users had to pay for extra storage. Then, as storage prices continued to fall, Google went after new customers by offering 1 gigabyte free to every user. Yahoo responded last year with the ultimate offer: infinite free storage. Since each page of webmail comes with ads, more users means more revenue. Source: Wired Magazine

There are two aspects of this seismic shift that I find interesting. The first was covered very well by Chris Anderson, and I would be hard-pressed to top his article. The angle that fascinates me is Google’s “first step”; if they hadn’t taken the plunge and expanded to 1GB, where would webmail be today? Would we still be waiting for the 1GB barrier to be crossed? It’s not just the first person or company that crosses a particular milestone that leads to a shift; if a tiny start-up company offered 1 GB of email storage then went out of business three months later, it would barely measure a ripple in the industry; it was the fact that Google would make more money from this method and would also make their competitors look bad (“only 10MB? The Google’s offering 100 times that!”) in the process that made an entire “industry” adapt. Which leads me to this question – what aspect of your current life, in 5 years, will be vastly different from today, and why? Will it be an industry-dictated shift? Will consumer pressure lead to innovation, or will the quest for cash continue its 1000-year-reign at the top of the charts?