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The i-Technology World Remains Giga-Baffled By Google's "Gmail"

"No humans read your e-mail" says Gmail's FAQ.

  • Read yesterday's story: Forget E-Mail, Free Google-Mail Arrives: "G-Mail" Is Born

    The world of Internet technologies like Java, .NET, XML, Web services, and Linux continues this morning to try and make sense of yesterday's choice of All Fools Day by Google to make its extraordinary announcement about launching a free e-mail service that offers so much accompanying free storage - 1 Gigabyte - that rival services would overnight seem massively restrictive in comparison, storage-wise.

    Was it a hoax? Or was it genuine? If a hoax, why hasn't Google yet said so? If genuine, same question.

    Here are some of the stranger aspects of the story.

    For a start, as yet not remarked upon elsewhere, the story was only ever searchable yesterday (and still, today) via Google's business sub-section, never its Sci/Tech subsection. That would seem to lead credence to the notion that Gmail is 100% legitimate and marks a massive warning shot across the bows of Yahoo and MSN's Hotmail.

    On the other hand, according to the Terms and Conditions listed on the Gmail Web site, Google is "currently only offering Gmail as part of a preview release and limited test. We don't have details on when Gmail will be made more widely available, as that depends in part on the results of the test." Reports began circulating that only 1000 "e-mail addicts" would be allowed to sign up for the service in beta, to iron out any wrinkles, which some commentators saw as being an indicator that perhaps it wasn't real after all.

  • Most distracting of all, of course, was yesterday's 100% certain Google-hoax, namely its April 1st announcement of GCHEESE,  standing for "Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering" - an imaginary lunar outpost for which the company was mock-soliciting engineers' resumes:

    Google Copernicus Center is hiring

    Google is interviewing candidates for engineering positions at our lunar hosting and research center, opening late in the spring of 2007. This unique opportunity is available only to highly-qualified individuals who are willing to relocate for an extended period of time, are in top physical condition and are capable of surviving with limited access to such modern conveniences as soy low-fat lattes, The Sopranos and a steady supply of oxygen.

    The Google Copernicus Hosting Environment and Experiment in Search Engineering (G.C.H.E.E.S.E.) is a fully integrated research, development and technology facility at which Google will be conducting experiments in entropized information filtering, high-density high-delivery hosting (HiDeHiDeHo) and de-oxygenated cubicle dwelling. This center will provide a unique platform from which Google will leapfrog current terrestrial-based technologies and bring information access to new heights of utility.

    If Google is serious about Gmail, then it has - whether inadvertently or deliberately - reaped a massive amount of publicity as a result of the confusion. Searches of the Internet this morning already reveal over 20,000 references to "Gmail" now litter the WWW after just 24 hours, with the number growing all the time. On the Google News site itself, only the reassurances yesterday by Saudi Arabia about US oil supplies (1229 items) exceeded the number of items about Gmail (555 items).

    Indeed Google News is very unusually linking not only to stories about its own Gmail announcement but also to news stories about its rivals such as Microsoft ( e.g. "Microsoft's quest for dominance", from CNET).

    Here's what some of the more prominent media are saying this morning:

    Techfocus (Australia): "It's War"

    Computer Business Review: "Gloves Off, Google Gets into Webmail Gig"

    St Petersburg Times: "No Gag: Google's plan for e-mail draws ogles"

    Forbes.com: "Google says "Gmail" is no joke, but lunar jobs are"

    CRN.com: Google Parlays Search Strength In New Mail Offering


    The Washington Post: "Google E-Mail Ad Plans Raise Fears About Privacy"

    The most serious issue, as raised by The Washington Post, would seem to be Google's current determination to use a "contextual advertising" model to fund the service.

    Here's how Google explains itself in the Gmail FAQ:

    8. Are there ads in Gmail?

    There are no pop-ups or banner ads in Gmail. Gmail does include relevant text ads that are similar to the ads appearing on the right side of Google search results pages. The matching of ads to content is a completely automated process performed by computers using the same technology that powers the Google AdSense program. This technology already places targeted ads on thousands of sites across the web by quickly analyzing the content of pages and determining which ads are most relevant to them. No humans read your email to target the ads, and no email content or other personally identifiable information is ever provided to advertisers.

    "No humans read your e-mail" is one of those assertions that always has the exact opposite effect on privacy advocates, and justifiably so.

    This Gmail story promises to be one of the most widely discussed initiatives since the creation of the WWW itself. You can expect the Internet to be awash with it for a good time yet. Especially as there may be some trademarking problems ahead for Google. Just look here:

    Gmail is an experimental SQL-based vfolder email system, using MySQL as its back-end database, which allows for large volumes of mail, without risk of data loss. The vfolders (virtual folders) are implemented as SQL queries. A cache system keeps gmail fast.

    Not from the Gmail site at all, but from the part of the Debian.org site devoted to a package known in full as gmail (0.7.5-2), GNOME mail client using SQL-based vfolders.
  • More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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