History and Background
When the Internet became a major public communications medium in the 1990s, many saw it as a great opportunity for a personal and instant communication system – email. Many free email providers arrived, but the first major player was Microsoft, with the release of Hotmail. Qualcomm soon released Eudora, followed by Yahoo and just recently, Google. And so the race to provide the most profitable and popular email service began
Microsoft Hotmail –
This has always been the most popular email service on the web. It’s success is mainly due to massive publicity, worldwide services and has now become nearly the default email service for starting Internet users. If you want an email, you go to Hotmail. It was barely threatened by other companies until the recent launch of Google’s Gmail. A year or so ago, Hotmail offered a measly 2 MB storage for email. Then out of the blue, Gmail launched a massive 1 GB email
service for public use. Luckily for Hotmail, Gmail is currently in beta and only available through an invitation based signup. Hotmail has now increased email capacity to 250 MB in an effort to rival Gmail.
Personally, I don’t like Hotmail. It’s pages load slower than other providers. Ads are found literally everywhere. Even with 250MB, the capacity is still small in comparison to Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Being the largest provider of email, it is also the most targeted by hackers and unauthorized users.
On the other hand it has the backing of Microsoft, has generally high quality spam and virus filters, has nice HTML email features and also works beautifully with other Microsoft products such as MSN Messenger and MSN Spaces.
Google Gmail –
Released as an invitation only beta on April 1, 2004 (no it was not an April Fool’s joke) Gmail made free email history when it announced that its new email service would boast a massive 1GB of free email storage. This was 500 times what Hotmail and 250 times what Yahoo offered at the time and thus users around the world just couldn’t get enough of Gmail. People who were lucky enough to receive an invitation were generally great beta testers, but some began selling these invitations on websites like eBay. I myself was lucky enough to receive an invitation from Gmail in its early stages. At the time most users were given no more than 10 invitations to hand out. Today I have 50, with quickly replenishment of these after use.
Personally, I love Gmail. It’s got a clean and fast interface, with very easy to use features. It’s storage is great, but few users will ever use even half of the space. It’s spam filters are good, but I would have to say Hotmail did a better job. POP and IMAP access are now available, as well as email forwarding.
But even Gmail has its cons. It lacks thorough HTML email support, both for viewing and composing. It lacks some common features in other email services, such as a choice of spam filter level, the ability to trash messages easily and also doesn’t work well (works only in plain HTML mode) with Opera and other older browsers.
Also there have been 2 privacy issues raised with Gmail. Firstly, the unobtrusive and generally clean looking ads on the right of most pages are contextual. This means these ads are generated based on page content, or in this case email content. Therefore every time you view an email, you’re email content is analyzed and then converted into ads for Google’s revenue.
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According to Google, this is all done by robots not humans, and therefore the email is never read by any humans, but none the less, many users get freaked out when they see their email posted in ad-form on the right of the screen.