Happy birthday Gmail!

3 Apr 2009

What began as an internal mail system for Google workers celebrated it’s fifth birthday on Wednesday. From such humble beginnings, Gmail has grown to become incredibly popular, with tens of millions of users around the world. Currently it’s translated into 52 languages.

“The engineers who created Gmail were frustrated with the existing email solutions, and wanted to build a better tool for people who got a lot of mail, which meant rethinking everything from the ground up. They built an architecture that was a combination of HTML and JavaScript (this later became known as AJAX), which offered a smoother, faster interface. And they designed Gmail with the most demanding users in mind,” said Todd Jackson, Gmail product manager, on the site’s official blog.

During the past five years, Gmail has greatly expanded its services: while in 2004 it was revolutionary to have a free email account with a gig of storage, today it’s possible to send a 20 megabyte attachment in a single email. There’s also Gmail chat, video chat, various fun themes and even Gmail labs, where users are asked to decide for themselves if new ideas are working or not.

Over the years, Gmail has caused controversy in relation to its privacy settings, and the way it scans emails in order to produce context-sensitive advertisements. However, it has also given us many laughs, especially every birthday when it plays a special April Fools’ on users.

By Deirdre Nolan

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years