Happy Birthday: Gmail turns five

Google’s trend-setting webmail service turns five today – but it’s officially still in beta.

It's been five years since Google first launched Gmail, with its offer of a gigabyte of storage for free appearing to many as a joke on 1 April 2004.

It was no joke, and Gmail has taken the world of free webmail by storm, forcing others to boost their storage and improve their features. At first, Google's mail service was available by invite only. To join up, someone with a Gmail account had to send you one of their limited number of invites. It was only opened up to the public in February 2007.

Despite being around for so long, Gmail is famously still listed as being a beta.

And, despite being part of the Google family, it holds far less market share than its rivals. As of last year, Yahoo Mail had 55 per cent of the market in the US, followed by Microsoft's Windows Live at 26 per cent. Gmail had just six per cent, according to the Hitwise statistics. That said, comScore reported that Gmail saw growth of 43 per cent last year, so maybe one day it will eventually catch up.

"Google Mail was born out of an experimental project created by a few engineers at Google five years ago. From the beginning, we wanted Gmail to be a faster, cleaner and more intuitive solution for people's email," a Google spokesperson told IT PRO.

"Since 2004 we've continued to focus on making Google Mail easier and more fun by introducing additions like themes, video chat and Google Mail Labs. We're thankful that so many people have picked Google Mail over the past five years, and we're looking forward to providing them with more innovative features in the future."

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