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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Google Launches Gmail

No April’s Fool – Google launches Gmail with 1 Gigabyte of storage.

Gmail will include a built-in search function. And there “are no pop-ups or banner ads in Gmail, which places relevant text ads and links to related web pages adjacent to email messages” as Google’s Gmail Help page states. (Also see Google’s press release.)

“Google will limit individual attachments to 10MB (...) and there will be terms of service to which users will be expected to adhere. Gmail accounts are currently set to expire after nine months of inactivity.”
– Lori Smith, Google to offer free e-mail with 1GB in storage (MSNBC), March 31, 2004


There’s a patent for “Serving advertisements using information associated with e-mail” – from the same person, Jeffrey A. Dean, who patented the Google AdSense approach, as mentioned by Abakus. And Resourceshelf points out though Google Inc. is not mentioned as originator of the first patent, they are mentioned as “Assignee Name” in the second. Both patents date back to March 25, 2004.

How to become a tester?

Currently the service is in pre-release phase and English-only. (“The service is being offered to invited users, and will be available to everyone in a few weeks, the company said”, CNN writes.)
The official Gmail homepage is at* (or, if you prefer). But there’s no way to create an account.

*Quote’s source: “<!-- There is no secret html on this page -->”

On the question of how to become a tester, an Orkut Gmail community member writes:

“First wear an overbelled hat like a jester
Chuck out your wardrobe for pure polyester
Send out a transcript to Greater Manchester
and sign to be there this coming semester
Be a LISPCOBOL conversion protester

Then maybe you can be a tester.”

And then there’s April’s Fool

“There is a growing amount of confusion surrounding Google’s announcement that it is going to introduce a new service called gmail. It’s seemingly outlandish claims of providing 1GB of storage space for each user for free, as well as the fact that it has introduced this service on April 1st, have split Journalists who are struggling to decide if it’s one of the biggest hoaxes in the history of April Fool’s day or simply that Google picked a terrible date to announce a radical new departure from it’s current business.”
– Andy Barker, Confusion surrounds Googles gmail project (I.T. Vibe), April 01, 2004

“If it turns out to be real, they are genius. What better way to announce it? All the “is it real” buzz. A day later, all the “wow it is” buzz. And making it an Orkut style roll out is another smart move. People will FIGHT to register.”
– Jonknee, Webmasterworld, Apr 1, 2004

OK, so Gmail is a “double April Fool’s hoax!   They get you to think [it’s] a joke, then it turns out it’s real”, as one Orkut member comments. As for Google’s real April Fool’s joke, that’s the one about Google Copernicus Center. It’s Google’s new lunar station research center, and they are hiring.

“[By] locating a research and technology center on the Moon, Google engineers will be able to experiment with an entirely different set of parameters. For example, imagine tapping unlimited solar energy to drive megawatt data centers and power innumerable arrays of massively parallel lava lamps, with ample no-cost cooling available to regulate the temperature of server farms sprawling over acres of land unblighted by sentient lifeforms or restrictive zoning ordinances.”
– Google

Questions will cover:

Or how about this one: Google set to buy the GoGooroa Island.

Update: Google Officially Denies Gmail is Hoax.

Google Personalization Ten Years From Now

“There is no hotter topic in technology than Google. Cover of Newsweek. Cover of Wired. IPO fever. What’s next? The Google Diet? The Five Googles You Meet in Heaven?

But, you know, much as I couldn’t live without it, Google stinks.

It’s a disaster that I type “turtles” into Google and get 1.9 million results. On the first page, Google serves up, and (devoted to the 1960s band that sang Happy Together). Yet what I want is information about the soccer team I play on, the Turtles — so named because of the speed at which we run.

Ten years from now – maybe five or even less – we will recall Google circa 2004 and wonder how we could have tolerated it. You know, sort of the way we look back on eight-track tapes.”
– Kevin Maney, Future search efforts will make Google look like 8-tracks (USA Today), 3/30/2004

But, you know, much as I would like to believe it – over-simplified personalization stinks. Human life is not as straight-forward as a variety of pastime checkboxes. I might be interested in a restaurant near my home town, or I might be researching a restaurant for a friend living 100 miles away, and I’m still the same person I was before. I might be looking to buy a plastic computer mouse today, and a living pet mouse tomorrow. Talking about mice (I’m shifting the setting now, a very human thing to do) I might be watching Walt Disney’s animated Basil of Baker Street, the Great Mouse Detective, and the same day cook something tasty which contains basil.

Much as we’d like to wish there would be no ambiguities in life (my, how boringly simple that would be)... fact is, ambiguity’s all around us and about to stay, too. And what do we do to tackle it? Exactly: we provide context. Whereas the recipient, if not enough context is given, asks for more context. Google returning 2 million pages for your search is its way of asking for a refined search. It’s like a friend saying, “Huh? What are you talking about?”

Because if you type into Google “basil” that just can’t work. Even if you would walk up to your best friend and say “basil”, the friend wouldn’t have the least clue what it is you are talking about. Only if a context is established – say, for the “Basil” example, you are cooking with your friend, or you are watching a Disney movie with your friend, or you are referring to “basil recipe”, or “basil the mouse detective” – is there a chance for this to make any sense. The same happens in Google; you provide context. Since you can’t watch a movie with Google or cook with Google, you choose the abstract level of human language (something we trained over thousands of years and upon which we build our culture, and certainly nothing to suddenly disregard now that computers start to try to help out).

It simply does not matter how well Google knows you, it will never be able to mind-read. Just like your best friend is not. And you get along good with your best friend, don’t you?

Google personalization ten years from now might be something nice for certain limited search approaches; it might even help us out now and then; it might have a great impact when it comes to time and location, parameters which indeed can be important to a search. However the way search personalization is understood today it is a useless toy. Now, and ten years from now.

Book: Google, Amazon, and Beyond

A new book that might interest you: Google, Amazon, and Beyond: Creating and Consuming Web Services (by Alexander Nakhimovsky and Tom Myers).

Top 20 Keywords

Here are the top 20 keywords being searched for, as taken from Wordtracker’s top 300 list:

  1. april fools
  2. penelope cruz
  3. recipes
  4. dictionary
  5. tom cruise
  6. google
  7. (sorry, I don’t believe this one is that popular)
  8. ebay
  9. pelajar uitm bogel (this one neither)
  10. milf
  11. yahoo
  12. paris hilton
  13. jokes
  14. britney spears
  15. health
  16. thong
  17. games
  18. lyrics
  19. carmen electra
  20. thongs


Newsmap visualizes Google News in a great-looking, screen-filling way (though I doubt easier to read/ quicker to scan). [Via Battelle.]


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