Sent to you by Sean McBride via Google Reader: On Gmail's Success via
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Paul Buchheit, the ex-Googler who created Gmail, remembers how
difficult was to convince people that Gmail has the potential to become
We starting working on Gmail in August (or September?) 2001. For a long
time, almost everyone disliked it. Some people used it anyway because
of the search, but they had endless complaints. Quite a few people
thought that we should kill the project, or perhaps "reboot" it as an
enterprise product with native client software, not this crazy
Javascript stuff. Even when we got to the point of launching it on
April 1, 2004 (two and a half years after starting work on it), many
people inside of Google were predicting doom. The product was too
weird, and nobody wants to change email services. I was told that we
would never get a million users.

Once we launched, the response was surprisingly positive, except from
the people who hated it for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, it was
frequently described as "niche", and "not used by real people outside
of silicon valley".
Financial Times reports that Gmail has about 100 million users and the
growth rate is still significant: "[Gmail] has been gaining ground in
the US over the past year, with users growing by more than 40 per cent,
compared to 2 per cent for Yahoo and a 7 per cent fall in users of
Microsoft's webmail."

Even though the competing mail services improved their offerings and
storage is no longer an important differentiator, Gmail still offers an
unmatched user experience. After using Gmail, you'll no longer
understand why Yahoo Mail places the "Send button" above the message,
why Yahoo Mail thinks it's more important to show news and weather
information instead of your inbox, why Yahoo Mail still charges for
features that are available for free in Gmail, why Hotmail shows a
large banner at the top of the page or why you can't auto-forward mail
to a non-Hotmail account. Gmail made so many right choices that it's
easy to ignore some of its quirks, downtimes or bugs.

As David Pogue said back in 2004, "Even in its current, early state,
available only to a few thousand testers, Gmail appears destined to
become one of the most useful Internet services since Google itself.
Gmail is infinitely cleaner, faster, more useful, more efficient, less
commercial and less limiting than other Web-based e-mail services."

The perception about Gmail changed a lot over the years, even though
Gmail didn't remove controversial features like contextual ads or
conversations. From the paranoid "Google reads your mail" or the cool
factor of having a Gmail invite, Gmail became successful by continuing
to improve and to exceed people's expectations.

Gmail's homepage from 2004

- Arasmus said: Original internal reluctance looks amazing now in
- jcastro said: The stuff in labs is sure to keep advanced users using
gmail as well.
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