By June 28, 2007

Happy Gmailversary — three years of Gmail in review

I am not sure when I signed up for Gmail, but the first message I ever received there was three years ago today. I must have deleted the canned “Welcome to Gmail” message, so unfortunately the first email of record was a telephone bill from Verizon. Not very exciting, but it demonstrates how much I rely on Gmail (and email, for that matter) in my life. I have been using my last name as my email domain since 1998, but I switch providers and email clients so often that trying Gmail made a lot of sense. No more bemoaning the loss of a Eudora email archive if my hard drive crashed, or having to worry about storage limits at my ISP. I needed a Web-based email client that offered HTTPS and a decent user interface. I had tried SquirrelMail previously and really hated it. I began forwarding all of my @lastname.org email to Gmail for reading and storage — and I’ve never looked back.

Gmail was the first Web-based email client to allow you to organize messages by “labels” instead of folders. This was the biggest reason I selected Gmail over other offering, including a Hotmail account I had activated in the late 90s. Previously, my brain would go to war with itself over where I should file an email. Example: I belong to an informal email list of friends who play Set online. We email each other with our times of the day. I also like to keep track of all messages regarding my sweetheart and #1 Gunner, Lady Jaye. Under a pre-Gmail email system, I would either have to file these messages in a “Set Game” folder, or in a folder associated with a person (i.e., “Lady Jaye”). This would cause problems, as sometimes the group will discuss something totally unrelated to our Set times. If Lady Jaye and Alexa start riffing about World of Warcraft in the middle of a day’s thread, would I push the email into the Set Group folder? The Lady Jaye folder? The Alexa folder? Maybe one for World of Warcraft? If I wanted to go back and re-read one of these sidebar conversations, I’d have to remember where I filed the message in the first place. I can hardly remember how to drive home from the gym, let alone where the fuck I stored an email from six months ago.

You might think, “why not just search for it?” What if I couldn’t remember exactly the terms I was looking for? Perhaps I searched for “witty retort,” while what I needed to search for was actually “witty remark?” Also, some clients (such as work’s horrible Lotus Notes) won’t search across multiple folders. Gmail’s label system helped me keep my sanity. I would be able to label my example email as “Set Game,” “Lady Jaye,” “Alexa,” and “WoW.” Gmail allows you to create and assign as many labels as you want, forever ending my email taxonomy issue.

There are other reasons that people like Gmail, such as the storage space, Gtalk integration, and other features. For me, however, it’s great to have a portable email client that offers me the ability to categorize email in a manner that is best for me. I don’t need drag and drop interfaces, graphical emoticons, and tons of confirmation/handholding messages that other Web-based clients offer. Spartan in appearance, high on utility, Gmail as great a fit for me today as it was three years ago.

Congrats to Gmail to toppling Eudora as the email client I’ve used for the longest period of time.

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1 Comment on "Happy Gmailversary — three years of Gmail in review"

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  1. I am glad you were able to demo Gmail to me. I definitely like the multiple-labels-per-email capability. Anywhere I have a fast connection, Gmail wins.

    One drawback you may not have encountered is that it seems too top-heavy for dialup, although Squirrelmail handles it ok (but Squirrelmail is a drag). So I’m still keeping an email account that I can do ssh-pine over dialup without tears, and I may hang onto that a long time, just in case.