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Forbes Reviews Google's Gmail [updated] 456

An anonymous reader submits "Forbes.com has what looks to be the first hands-on review of Google's forthcoming Gmail service. Aside from the 1-gigabyte storage, the searching features sound pretty useful for what the writer calls 'email packrats' which I think fits me pretty well. But I can't say I agree with the writer's opinion that privacy fears, as discussed this Slashdot thread, about the Gmail service are 'overblown.' Still and all, I'm curious to try it myself and see what I think." Update: 04/13 00:55 GMT by T : notEA writes "A California state senator is drafting legislation to block Google from releasing Gmail. Seems kind of silly, since all anti-spam filters read your messages anyway."
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Forbes Reviews Google's Gmail [updated]

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  • by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:42PM (#8842322) Homepage
    I think Google is being VERY forthcoming with information and making it clear what they do and do not do...

    Why the uproar... if you're against having them sort your mail and deliver ads based on content, don't sign up!
    • by knowles420 ( 589383 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:51PM (#8842406) Homepage Journal
      or... sign up anyway and waste their precious storage space.
      • by wo1verin3 ( 473094 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:59PM (#8842477) Homepage
        I think in the time you'll spend wasting their storage, they'll make their money in ads...

        Which is the point of the service for them anyway :)
    • by ron_ivi ( 607351 ) <(sdotno) (at) (cheapcomplexdevices.com)> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:05PM (#8842548)
      These guys [spymac.com] also offer 1GB email accounts with less privacy concerns, and no strings attached

      I think they started doing it when they saw the demand after the early Apr google announcement and people thought it was an april fools joke.

      Disk space is so cheap this isn't an amazing size -- I get 10GB (email+web hosting) for $10/month.

      • by EdipisReks ( 770738 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:20PM (#8842679)
        the Spymac e-mail addresses are quite nice. they had a bit of a lag on activation e-mails for the first couple days, but that seems to have been cleared up.
      • by tabdelgawad ( 590061 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:21PM (#8842692)
        There's a reasonable likelihood that yourname@Gmail.com will still be working 5 or 10 years from now, when you'll really need the 1 gig for the accumulated emails. I'd put the probability of "these guys" being around 10 years from now at approximately zero.
      • "I get 10GB (email+web hosting) for $10/month."

        Is that guaranteed.... like say early cable modem providers "guaranteed"?

        I'm sure if all of their customers actually used 10GB they wouldn't think it's so cheap. Say they use 200GB disks [309$ CDN locally...] they would have to have 19 customers for 2 months to pay it off.

        Doesn't sound like much, but what if they need say 10 drives to accomodate their customers? Chances are that's at least two computers [I dunno how that translates into U/2U] which means more money, etc... I found a 1U co-locate for 150$/mo. Assuming two 2U spots costs say 500$ you need at least 50 customers each month to turn bank (they will also consume 3 200GB disks...). Presumably you will want to give them say 10GB traffic too. Well that's another 5$ per user or 250$...

        So right now you're upto ~750$ per month. But you're only making 500$ a month... so you cheap on the disks cuz they won't fill it up. And you cheap on the bandwidth budget cuz they won't fill it up....

        Then when they do you accidentally exercise the "I'm bigger than you clause" where you say "unlimited meant reasonably unlimited and reasonably means you are owned." ;-)

      • by Frisky070802 ( 591229 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:37PM (#8843606) Journal
        Maybe it's the email itself that's not unique: how much duplicated (or really similar) mail will Google come across and avoid saving multiple times?
    • And, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blunte ( 183182 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:07PM (#8842560)
      What makes people think that Hotmail, Yahoo, and other free-mail providers don't intentionally or accidentally archive, parse, or otherwise "invade" their users' privacy to some degree?

      In any event, as long as people are sending clear text email across the net, it's all being read and stored by _somebody_.
      • Re:And, (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v1x ( 528604 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:41PM (#8842849) Homepage
        I dont know about hotmail specifically, but MSN communities doesnt seem to delete stuff after they delete your account. In my case, I received a bunch of warnings that my community had become inactive and would be deleted if I didnt take action. Surely enough, after some time, they did delete it. Then, a few months later, I created a new community with the exact same name. Imagine my surprize when I found my old folders & files in this newly created community! I dont think we can take any of these services for granted when it comes to archiving our data.
      • Re:And, (Score:5, Informative)

        by fiftyfly ( 516990 ) <mike@edey.org> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:42PM (#8842854) Homepage
        What makes people think that Hotmail, Yahoo, and other free-mail providers don't intentionally or accidentally archive, parse, or otherwise "invade" their users' privacy to some degree?
        Well perusing the MSN EULA, which one is required to agree to before activating a hotmail account:
        6. MATERIALS YOU POST OR PROVIDE; COMMUNICATIONS MONITORING For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a "Submission"), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission. Microsoft may remove your Submission at any time. For each Submission, you represent that you have all rights necessary for you to make the grants in this section. To the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, Microsoft may monitor your e-mail, or other electronic communications and may disclose such information in the event it has a good faith reason to believe it is necessary for purposes of ensuring your compliance with this Agreement, and protecting the rights, property, and interests of the Microsoft Parties or any customer of a Microsoft Party.
        Given such boilerplate as 'standard' I'm sure google could do all kinds of nifty automated things with your textstream while managing to be at least relatively 'not evil'
      • I've read all your email and you've got nothing to hide.
    • by nizo ( 81281 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:15PM (#8842638) Homepage Journal
      if you're against having them sort your mail and deliver ads based on content

      I can't wait to see all the viagra, penis enlargment, and nekkid cheerleader ads that my spam laden email would generate.

  • Google Backups! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MoxCamel ( 20484 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:42PM (#8842328)
    With 1GB of storage, it won't be long until someone writes a perl script
    to run backups to multiple Google accounts. The money I'd save on tapes
    • Re:Google Backups! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Aoverify ( 566411 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:44PM (#8842346) Homepage
      Don't forget the MP3, SVCD, and Warez sites that will also likely exploit the service.
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BandwidthHog ( 257320 ) <inactive.slashdo ... icallyenough.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:47PM (#8842373) Homepage Journal
        Ever consider that the rocket surgeons at Google have already thought of that? You really think they're gonna let their new baby become the world's biggest DC hub?

        That's one thing I'm interested in seeing, is where they draw the line when it comes to using a webmail account as an FTP server.
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:50PM (#8842394)
        Don't forget the MP3, SVCD, and Warez sites that will also likely exploit the service.

        The potential abuse schemes are so many in number that there's no way Google is going to release Gmail into the wild without having defenses in place. To do so would be the ultimate blunder in Web service history, it's just not like Google to do something like that.

        Remember, the system right now is in a much talked about yet still closed beta state right now. How they're going to even hand out accounts remains yet to be seen.

        Just because they allow 1 GB of historic e-mail storage doesn't mean they can't throtle users to 1 MB per day and make them take over 3 years to get up to that GB... there's so many simple fixes on the table that Google's gonna grab a few of them.
        • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by unother ( 712929 ) <myself@kre i g . me> on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:56PM (#8842459) Homepage
          I wouldn't be so sure about that...

          Just do a search on Google and see how for any vaguely x-rated term, a whole host of fake listings appear.

          If they haven't solved this in the six+ months this has been happening, I wouldn't give them full credence for their ability to stop warez action.
        • Re:Google Backups! (Score:3, Interesting)

          by netringer ( 319831 )
          Just because they allow 1 GB of historic e-mail storage doesn't mean they can't throtle users to 1 MB per day and make them take over 3 years to get up to that GB... there's so many simple fixes on the table that Google's gonna grab a few of them.
          I can think of a simple fix.

          Limit the 1GB of space for to TEXT (maybe HTML) only.

          They could simply limit space for UUEncoded binaries.
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:38PM (#8843245) Homepage Journal
        "Don't forget the MP3, SVCD, and Warez sites that will also likely exploit the service."

        Two easy ways to avoid this:

        1.) Only allow attachments up to say 2 megs.

        2.) Disallow accounts from being accessed by more than 10 ip addresses in a 24 hour period.

    • The cost of bandwidth and time to send to Gmail would be far more than tapes or hard drives.

      There is a 10MB/attachment max, I believe. If you're talking warez, you'd have to be giving people access to the password, at which point someone will delete the files or just change the password.
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Famatra ( 669740 )
        "There is a 10MB/attachment max, I believe. If you're talking warez, you'd have to be giving people access to the password, at which point someone will delete the files or just change the password."

        If you are talking warez, then I simply forward the attachment(s) to *your*, and anyone elses', gmail accounts so you can download them at your leisure.

        This might also be an excellent way to distribute normal software as well. Goto a webpage to download some software, put in your gmail account and click a butt
        • With all of the tracking and saving of messages they will be doing, how smart is it to even attempt something like this?

          • Re:Google Backups! (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Famatra ( 669740 )
            "With all of the tracking and saving of messages they will be doing, how smart is it to even attempt something like this?"

            For wares? Not sure how smart warez people are to begin with, since trading warez in any medium is illegal in most places anyhow ;).

            That being said, the use of encryption, public computers, anonymous remailers, and the fact that someone would have to report you doing it since not even an army of people can keep track of all the messages.

            Gmail will have warez the same way warez, and v
          • Re:Google Backups! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Gherald ( 682277 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:41PM (#8842847) Journal
            Aw come on, there are a million workarounds. For starters, you could try:

            1) Put warez 800mb program into RAR/bz
            2) Split RAR/bz into ~50 9.9MB files
            4) TAR the files
            5) UUencode or BinHex the files
            6) Mail to your Gmail account from your ISP account, or upload directly to Gmail if possible.
            7) Log into Gmail and forward the mail to 1000 of your buddies!
            8) Profit!!!!

            Look, we even know what the step before Profit is! So this scheme is completely foolproof, rite?
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Carnildo ( 712617 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:05PM (#8842542) Homepage Journal
        There is a 10MB/attachment max, I believe. If you're talking warez, you'd have to be giving people access to the password, at which point someone will delete the files or just change the password.

        No, you don't.

        Use the GMail account for storage. On your warez site, when someone clicks a "download" link, the site backend creates a new GMail account for the user, popping up any CAPTCHA system Google is using for the user to solve. It then forwards the approprate e-mails from the storage account to the newly-created account, gives you the username and password for that account, and lets you take care of downloading and reassembling the pieces. During this process, the storage account is perfectly secure.
    • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Liselle ( 684663 ) * <`slashdot' `at' `liselle.net'> on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:52PM (#8842414) Journal
      Let's not get ahead of ourselves, here. You're not the first to invent this exploit, for certain. I am sure that Google has anticipated this, and will silently punish those that take advantage. I'm hearing that Spymac.com has offered a simliar 1GB storage email deal (also free, no less), and they'd have to be world-class idiots not to have some sort of protections in place to keep the system from being abused (I can't find their TOS, or I'd link it for you).

      I think once GMail gets out of the gate, we'll see what clever method they have to keep the warez out. Maybe no binary attachments?
      • Re:Google Backups! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Carnildo ( 712617 )
        Maybe no binary attachments?

        Define "binary attachment". Is a Base64-encoded attachment binary? What about uuencoding? Would a unicode text file be binary, or text?

        Consider the following:

        Any virus scanner will tell you that's a virus. If I were to attach it to an e-mail under the name "eicar.com", would it be considered a binary attachment or not?
    • Re:Google Backups! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:01PM (#8842500)
      Lets see, I have 1TB of data I back up. At 756kb/second upload speed it will take around 220 hours to back that up to a thousand acounts. Think I'll stick with my AIT library.
    • Re:Google Backups! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by haus ( 129916 )
      Considering that Google has been rather upfront with their intentions of searching the email that is sitting in your inbox. Would it be that much of a stretch to think that they would look at attachments that are received and compare them to other matches sitting in other gmail accounts, and when it finds matches, simply make a link to a master file. With a large enough user group I am sure that there will be tens of thousands of common files (weather they be tax forms in pdf, or an Areosmith song in mp3).
  • In Google We Trust (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:43PM (#8842335)
    E-mail is an inherently insecure medium. For the most part messages are sent in the clear, meaning almost no attempt is made to obfuscate the contents of a message from someone with prying eyes. All Internet service providers store e-mail on a server in order to deliver it to you. Technicians with time on their hands and lousy ethics can--if they want--read your mail. ...
    Google insists quite clearly in its privacy policy that "No human reads your mail to target ads or other information without your consent." The process by which it pushes ads at its users is fully automated. Fears about privacy problems inherent with the Gmail service are, in our opinion, overblown.

    All of the privacy fears surounding Gmail are based on Google breaching their own privacy policy, which would be an unethical violation of trust. But, since e-mail is unencrypted, every e-mail provider on the face of the Earth has the same ability to breach that trust, including MSN Hotmail, Yahoo, Earthlink, and whoever/whatever you trust your e-mail to.

    So, when it comes down to it, the bottom line question is, do you trust Google to do what they say they're going to do? If you don't... just who are you going to trust to handle your e-mail?

    If your tin foil hat is firmly on, you can't use e-mail at all. Most people will just not e-mail you rather than jump through security certificate hoops. That means their ISP's SMTP server could be logging everything that's sent from them to you, and you'd be powerless to stop that.
    • by Vancorps ( 746090 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:53PM (#8842426)
      I do trust Google to do what they say they are doing. I often wonder of the legal side-effects of an archiving service like this. Many ISPs don't keep logs any long than 30 days on a pure logistics standpoint. Its easier to be able to say the records don't exist that it is to produce 10 year old emails.

      Of course, Google knows content management so maybe they are fully prepared to handle the flood of subpoenas and the likes.

    • by silvaran ( 214334 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:59PM (#8842483)
      If your tin foil hat is firmly on, you can't use e-mail at all.

      My tin foil hat doesn't impede my ability to use E-Mail at all. My tin foil body suit, on the other hand...
    • by Goo.cc ( 687626 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:56PM (#8842970)
      "So, when it comes down to it, the bottom line question is, do you trust Google to do what they say they're going to do? "

      No, I do not. Why?

      1. Google can probably alter the deal at any time without your consent.

      2. Once a company goes public, they are no longer trustworthy in my opinion. We need look no further then SCO to see what can happen once a company becomes publically traded (Caldera).

      Sadly, what is ethical and what is legal are often two different things.
    • by sphealey ( 2855 )

      All of the privacy fears surounding Gmail are based on Google breaching their own privacy policy, which would be an unethical violation of trust.

      • Companies can be bought out or change hands
      • No US court has so far enforced a privacy policy made by a primary entity against the actions of a successor

        The Bankruptcy Court has the authority to terminate just about any contractual agreement, including a privacy policy

        The Patriot Act requires that entities whose data is subpoeaned by federal authorities NOT inform

  • by prostoalex ( 308614 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:45PM (#8842352) Homepage Journal
    It's hardly a good review. It's descriptive of the features, but the author makes it a point to emphasize apparent facts. He dedicates one paragraph just defending the fact that 1 GB is good for you, as if there was strong opposition and people lined up with posters "Give me back my Hotmail 2 MB!" outside of Google's offices.

    Then in two paragraphs he explains what "clear text" means, providing gratuitous analogies of your ISP techs potentially reading your e-mail.

    Here're some more interesting first-hand experiences:

    GMail review [wholelottanothing.org], about spam filters and all

    Another review [wholelottanothing.org] with screenshots

    Review from a current user [fury.com] with pictures and information on ads

    Mark Pilgrim [diveintomark.org], complaining GMail's JavaScript broke his Firefox shortcuts.

  • Fucking danger (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Burgundy Advocate ( 313960 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:45PM (#8842358) Homepage
    Even if Google is a "cool" company, I'm not so sure that I really want to let them have rights to my private information as their licence can be interpreted to give them.

    Remember, Netscape used to be "cool" too. And Caldera. And so on and so fourth...

    Then again, maybe McNealey was right and privacy is dead. What a wonderful world.
  • Privacy Concerns? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:46PM (#8842366)
    I don't think there are any privacy concerns at all. The ad system is no different than their current ad system for seaches. It is 100% automated, no one will actually be reading your mail. If you're concerned about a computer scanning through your e-mail than you can't use any e-mail service that blocks spam and/or viruses as that is what they do.
  • Threading? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TechnologyX ( 743745 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:47PM (#8842368) Journal
    "Once you find the one of the e-mail messages that is part of that exchange, Gmail displays it with related messages in the window. Gmail calls these exchanges "conversations." And clicking on one expands it so that more than one relevant message is displayed at a time. A link at the right of the screen says "expand all," and it expands all the messages that are part of a conversation.

    Similar to threading in Thunderbird / Moz? That is a pretty handy feature, except under Thunderbird it sometimes tries to thread EVERY message sent from a mailing list, instead of individual topics within the mailing list.

    Still, one of my fav mail features.
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Funny)

    by DeadBugs ( 546475 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:48PM (#8842375) Homepage
    They can go ahead and search my 1 Gigabyte encrypted zip file all they want.
  • Name Grabbing-rush (Score:5, Interesting)

    by obfuscated ( 258084 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:48PM (#8842376) Homepage
    Is everyone prepared for the 'oklahoma-land-rush style' name grabbing?

    I'm sure there will be people who will try and speculate a few names for themselves and then sell them just like domain names.

    I have a script that refreshes the gmail page daily to try and get a jump on my name but I don't have faith that I'll actually get it.
    • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:03PM (#8842522)
      Interesting that Google would have the ability to trump any such schemes by running the auction themselves...

      Announce a 30-day pre-launch period where people can "pre-register" their desired user names. Anybody who picks a unique name gets it free. Anybody who picks a name that's in conflict gets invited into an auction to take part in if they still want the name.

      This would deflate most of the name-speculation business because in order for a speculator to profit, they'd have to win the name at auction and then somehow sell that name for more than they paid. Google could keep the money for itself, but knowing their "Don't be evil" rules they'd likely donate the money to a charity cause.

      "First come, first served" would be a very unwise policy for Google to take... but notice they haven't told us what their name-handout policy will be yet.
  • no humans... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blutrot ( 734054 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:50PM (#8842395)
    No human reads your mail to target ads or other information without your consent

    What about programs that target ads to you based on your email or ``other'' information? The way the article is worded infers that this is happening. What is to prevent google from coming up with human-readable statistics of what email messages a person or group of people are receiving or sending?
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gtshafted ( 580114 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:53PM (#8842421)
    If you currently use a major webmail provider - chances are that you currently don't have it anyway. I don't know about Yahoo, but Microsoft outsourced MSN's support to companies in the Phillipines - of which one of my friends used to work at. He told me that there was really no framework to ensure that the support team couldn't arbitrarily look into someone's email account which they did when they were bored or when they had a request from family and friends (ie "please check my girlfriend's account - I want to know if she's cheating on me" - etc...). The bottomline is that the only thing protecting your privacy if you use a mainstream email account - is the sheer number of other people who have accounts...

    I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case with other email providers - especially ones that outsourced support to other countries.

  • Well done. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <CGP AT ColinGregoryPalmer DOT net> on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:55PM (#8842441) Homepage
    Organizing messages from your inbox is also different with Gmail. Gmail's approach is to use labels, instead of folders, which allows messages to have overlapping types.

    Now this is exactly the kind of simple-but-fantastically-useful thinking that makes me love google. I can only hope that Apple `borrows' the idea for mail.app

    -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:56PM (#8842451) Homepage
    Am I alone in thinking of hotmail or yahoo or google as the kind of e-mail you use when you have no better alternative? I can't imagine why anyone who can afford the price of an Internet account wouldn't prefer Pegasus, Eudora, or even Outlook.

    Beyond that, I want my e-mail archives on my computer, not on some random server that I don't control. I want to know that I'm the only person who is accessing my files, and I don't want to wake up some morning and find out that the message that I desperately need to review is lost because of a server failure or DDOS attack.

    Relying on a webmail system for your primary communications just seems foolish.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:49PM (#8843313)
      Am I alone in thinking of hotmail or yahoo or google as the kind of e-mail you use when you have no better alternative?

      No. But you are mistaken. It's an excellent option for almost all email purposes.

      I can't imagine why anyone who can afford the price of an Internet account wouldn't prefer Pegasus, Eudora, or even Outlook.

      I don't want to license, upgrade, debug, etc. someone's proprietary email clients and/or servers, maintain servers and storage including backups, expose my network providing SMTP or POP/IMAP holes in my firewall, etc. etc. There are many reasons one can easily imagine. Try harder.

      Beyond that, I want my e-mail archives on my computer, not on some random server that I don't control.

      Why? So it's isolated from you if you can't communicate with your computer? I can hit my Yahoo stuff from literally anything, including my cell phone. Besides, any worthy web mail system will allow you to pull the mail via POP or IMAP, should you feel the need.

      I want to know that I'm the only person who is accessing my files,

      Nix email then. You do know unencrypted email travels through the Internet unencrypted, right?

      and I don't want to wake up some morning and find out that the message that I desperately need to review is lost because of a server failure or DDOS attack.

      A Yahoo (and, eventually, Google) email account has vastly more storage redundancy than anything you can cook up. Costs less, too. Won't break when you upgrade whatever manages the storage, since you don't manage or upgrade it, either. Doesn't force me to provide SMTP so I can just not worry about whatever silly hole is found in whatever 20 year old code base provides it. Won't infect my machines should I preview the wrong message due to incessant client bugs...

      Relying on a webmail system for your primary communications just seems foolish.

      Puttering around with local attached storage and obsolete email systems seems foolish. These web mail systems provide excellent spam control, scalability, low cost and high reliability. Frankly email service is a commodity now; just a value-add for some other service. Google will get web mail right, finally, and I'm done nursing email servers. 3 years from now PHB's are going to be asking why the hell they're paying for Exchange licenses, and wasting time with their IT monkeys misconfiguring the servers.
  • Privacy concerns? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by defile ( 1059 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:57PM (#8842463) Homepage Journal

    You must explicitly request Google by name to use their services. You can't be unaware of their existence like you can with Microsoft or Apple (comes with the computer).

    Google does not surreptitiously install spyware on your system and record everything you do on your computer, requiring you to meticulously hunt down and remove its components or employ third party scumware removal utilities.

    All you have to do stop using Google is to stop typing their name.

    Switching to Google did not require a 15MB download, or a registration process, or a credit card. As the average joe, you've invested very little in Google, and you can replace them as simply as you can type a 4-8 letter word.

    The only thing that keeps you typing their name is that you believe they're the best way to find the answer. Once you stop believing that, once a significant group of people become fed up, Google is finished. They know this, you should too.

    In fact, type "search engine" and Google will tell you about altavista, lycos, excite, alltheweb, etc.

    • by nomadicGeek ( 453231 ) * on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:31PM (#8842762)
      I agree with you. They have shown themselves to be pretty honorable and trustworthy thus far.

      The only problem is that I wonder how much of this will change after their IPO.

      Right now they are a private company trying to build up. What happens after they issue stock and have report their earnings quarterly? Will they stick to their principles?
  • Privacy Policy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:58PM (#8842469)
    People are complaining because google is scanning their email with a computer. We have our private email scanned all the time, for viruses and for spam. In fact, many of the spam based filtering approaches look at the words and their structure and generate statistical models based on that for the purposes of identifying legit email from illigit.

    So google will scan to add ads to my email. This info wasn't buried on page 200 in small legalese, but was in their FAQ! Google has been very forthcoming with how they will scan and store individuals email. Given that they are upfront about this, some of the privacy groups seem to literally have gone off the wall.

    People say, ads are obnoxious in my email. Clearly you havn't used hotmail recently. They are in the frame and in the email! Google invented the unobtrusive ad.

    Compared to the hotmail and yahoo accounts people will be coming from (have you read your SBC/Yahoo terms of service recently), it is hard to see how google will be so much worse for them, even from a privacy standpoint.

    While the airlines are giving my flight info to private contractors to profile me so that I can't travel anymore, without telling me, google posts how they will scan my email to advertise products to me.
  • by -tji ( 139690 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @06:58PM (#8842471) Journal
    Personally, I couldn't care less about their mail scanning to associate ads. It's a free service.. Ad's are the cost of usage. If they can get legitimate advertisers and successfully achieve directed advertising, that's even better. I am much more concerned about transit and authentication security.

    Some of the privacy areas that would be more valuable to me are:

    - Ability to access securely. I am much more concerned about sniffers on public networks grabbing my data than google's software seeing it. Can I use a fully SSL encrypted session for mail access (rather than Yahoo's SSL authentication, then clear viewing of mail content)?

    - Encrypted e-mail support? Open standards based e-mail encryption would be a major plus. If it was compatible with Mozilla/Thunderbird it would be extremely useful. Running a huge mail service that supported this could get enough momentum for average people to actually secure their e-mail. (The mail is then secured not only in transit, but also on the disk.)

    - IMAPS / POPS support? I don't know if it will allow POP/IMAP support at all. But, if it does, SSL encrypted sessions are a must to avoid password and data sniffing.
  • by Gilesx ( 525831 ) * <sjw@ d i e pls.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:00PM (#8842497)
    Wonder how much I could sell a gmail account loaded with mp3s for on eBay?
  • by Scorillo47 ( 752445 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:03PM (#8842524)
    One thing that makes me skeptical on Gmail is the huge amount of storage required to keep the system running.

    1) Let's make a simple calculation: let's pick up the number of Hotmail accounts (200,000,000 as I heard last time). Multiply this with 1 Gb and you get 24 Petabytes of data!

    (See Google for more details http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF -8&q=200000000+*+1+Gb )

    It would be interesting to know how much data does Google store today.

    2) Now, let's compute how much power will this system consume? Assuming at least a RAID 1 configuration, you would need at least 48 Petabytes of storage since we all know that harddisks fail.

    Let's assume that one harddisk stores around 250 Gb of data. Let's assum uncompressed data (since those 1 Gb can contain anything after all... This means that we need around 200,000,000 * 2 / 250 = 1,600,000 harddrives running all the time!

    Now, let's pick up the power consumption to be around 10 W. We then get around 1,600,000 * 10 = 16 Gigawatts of power to be dissipated. Now THAT is a lot of power... Think of all the maintenance costs for running this for only one year.

    Anyway, the engineering challenges are pretty strong here. I imagine that Google is taking a risky bet here and hopes to develop storage rack/ventiation technology "on the go".

    In conclusion, I really think that either Gmail won't be free, or the 1 Gb limit is a marketing number.
    • This is going to be heavily oversubscribed. Most people won't use anywhere close to 1GB of storage, so they don't need to provide a theoretical maximum. I really doubt if Hotmail actually has enough storage to store the maximum amount of data for every account they have either.
    • by Xeger ( 20906 ) <.ten.regex.rekcart. .ta. .todhsals.> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:22PM (#8842698) Homepage
      I'm somewhat skeptical on your figure of 200,000,000 (two hundred million) Hotmail accounts ... but, assuming that's a worldwide total and assuming that some small fraction of Hotmail users are abusing the service by using dozens or hundreds of mailboxes for whatever nefarious activities, I suppose it's a halfway plausible figure.

      So let's assume, for the moment, that Google really plans to support on the order of one hundred million users. Your numbers clearly indicate that 1GB of devoted disk space per user would be unfeasible -- or at the very least, *very* costly to maintain. Happily, I don't think Google plan to go that route.

      I would consider myself an average-volume email user, but after subtracting out the ~300 spams I receive daily, I probably get fewer than three dozen pieces of ham (valid emails) on a given weekday. Those messages have a very small average size (about 3kB) but we'll be charitable and assume that the average ham is 10kB in size.

      So, the typical user (i.e. me) can expect to receive 360kB of mail in a day. At this rate one would expect that his 1GB of storage would be exhausted within a year. But emails are plain ASCII or Unicode text, which is very compressible. Google are of course very good at storing text in compressed-but-searchable form -- one might even say it's their core competency, alongside the PageRank algorithm. Given that emails consist of a large amount of redundant information such as headers, and that many list threads endlessly quote earlier messages, a user's entire mail corpus might be compressible by 300%. So we've raised our time to hit quota from one year to three years.

      If Google are *really* smart, they'll identify mailing list messages and amortize the storage cost for a list message among all Gmail subscribers subscribe to the list. Since lists are typically the noisiest source of mail in my inbox (most messages and largest size), I would expect quite a bit of savings from this technique.
    • If you think even a few percent of Google's customers will come close to 1GB of email within the first few years then you overestimate the average email user. Even if they did, using an aggressive compression algorithm they can cut store a full account (1GB of uncompressed email) down by at least 50%, if not to 20-25%. Since it has to be email then it has to follow normal email encoding standards (7bit, base64 encoding for binary, etc)

      I think the power users are those who will subscribe to lists that they want to use for reference, but do not actually read on a regular basis. And guess what Google will do with such a list message? They will likely store one copy on the server, and a pointer from every account which received that message - perhaps with a small diff file to recover address differences, etc.

      In the end, hard drive space is cheap They can set up a fully backed up terabyte array for under $1000. That terabyte array will support thousands of 'average' users, and hundreds of 'power' users.

      The biggest deal is the searching technology. To search all that they'll need several dedicated servers with their own indexes. Chances are email will be auto-indexed as it comes in so searches always seem fresh.

      In the end it's not going to need even a few percent of your excessive estimate. But if it did, you know it'd be worth it since they'd have extremely exacting profiles on their users and the people they contact, and advertising that is so tightly focused can be nothing but profitable.

      The concept of indexing each email as it's stored provides a powerful opportunity for spam filtering, compression, and copy storage. If two messages are 90% similar then they may be from a list, they may be spam, or they may be valid. Create a diff file, store the diffs on each account, store the 'main' message the diffs were created from, and file the messages into the spam holder or regular folding, tagging and indexing as you go.

      The fact is that the more users they have, the more powerful this system becomes. I'm drooling just thinking about the possibilities... I wouldn't mind working for them, I think.

      Of course, this is mad speculation, but it just makes sense givin that they are an indexing company. Their main product is not searching, but indexing. Searching is simply a by-product.

  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:03PM (#8842527) Homepage Journal
    It is possible to use browser side javascript to encrypt and decrypt content, see Pfex ( a non-serous encryption demo ) [sourceforge.net]

    It should be possible to use public key encryption with inspected outgoing and incoming email gateways to ensure email content privacy.

    -Incoming SMTP Email
    | Incoming Gateway encrypts plaintext email with User's public Key
    - Encrypted Email
    | Gmail Web based email server
    - Encrypted Email
    | User's Web Brower with Javascript decrypt. User supplies/cut-pastes private Key
    - Decrypted Email only at user browser side
    | User Reads and enters reply into text window
    | More Javascript encrypts outgoing content using outgoing gateway's public key
    - Encrypted Email
    | Outgoing Email gateway decrypts outgoing Email
    - Decrypted Email

    As long as the Incoming and Outgoing email servers remain seperate,subject to inspection and undergo regular auditing, then the email stored on Gmail will remain unreadable to Google.

  • by Splork ( 13498 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:08PM (#8842567) Homepage
    and you'll find that gmail's is quite good.
  • Yay! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gilesx ( 525831 ) * <sjw@ d i e pls.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:08PM (#8842570)
    Now I can archive years of spam and show my grandkids just how easy it used to be to get

    a) Viagra
    b) Vicodin
    c) A degree
    d) A loan
    e) Laid
  • Indie-Mail (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:15PM (#8842634) Homepage
    Since Google announced GMail I decided it was about time I took a stab at offering e-mail services seriously. Even if it was just April 1st and Google was just joking.

    So I whipped up some scripts to work on top of Mercury Mail and added OpenSSL to the server. Currently the web-mail portion is text only. This allows you to report spam before it gets into your POP3 client without notifying the spammers if they have externally linking images or whatnot.

    When you delete a message, it's gone. I was going to go with Google AdSense to try to support the cost but Google's systems obviously can't read your e-mail so the ads weren't working out. So it's just free and no ads. In the future I may find a way to get Google AdSense to mesh with it.

    The cool feature though is the full text search. It uses a modified version of DGS Search [digitalgenesis.com] which by default is too anal about how it creates the links to the files it finds to be usable. So I fixed it.

    15,000KB max file attachments, no storage limits (just don't use it for file storage).

    So if you're interested in how the features of GMail are going to work for you, give Indie-Mail a try. Just create an account, forward some e-mails to it and try it out.

    I'll be working on spiffying up the look of it over time. My goal was to just get it functional and secured.

  • Ill trust it... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dallask ( 320655 ) <codeninja AT gmail DOT com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:17PM (#8842650) Homepage
    I trust google to not read my email... and I really don't have a problems with ads being displayed to me...

    Look at Hotmail... in hotmail, If your mother or your wife is using hotmail, despite the content of the email, or her profile, she is bombarded with ads for singles sites, personals sites, and the occasional porn site... and that's being shown to your 16 year old kid too.

    These ads are made to look like polls and chat boxes or survey forms to specifically increase click through....

    but google, though it may parse your email, will display a relevant ad based upon the content of the email. This means your mother will be shown recipe sites... your daughter will be pointed to the Gap, and when you wife mentions Valentines or Mothers day to you, you will be able to instantly click through to redenvelope.com...

    Possibly, it could be a life saver.

    and honestly, if I never had to sort or search for an email again, Id be happy.
  • by jjeffries ( 17675 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:20PM (#8842671)
    personally, my "current" email, that which is important and timely, stays under 10MB or so just about all the time. Not so with "bobb", my boss. I have altered "bobb's" name slightly to protect his identity.

    Bobb has every email he's been sent since 1996. It might be thousands of messages, maybe hundreds of thousands by now. His Eudora mailbox has been transplanted to two different computers and that's only in the time I've been here. He hates having to reboot his machine because it takes 20 minutes for Eudora rebuild the index. And worst of all, it's mostly useless, out-of-date crap!!! Every old, unimportant thing you could imagine--network monitoring alarms from the late '90's, 'see you in five minutes' type stuff, bounces, and spam, spam, spam... maybe 1% of this stuff has enough content to bother with. The rest? A distraction if not a hinderance.

    please don't end up like bobb. prune that mailbox regularly! don't forget to wash behind your home directory, either.

  • by Twid ( 67847 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:21PM (#8842688) Homepage
    Mark Pilgrim, an accessibility guru, has a pretty harsh review of gmail here:
    http://diveintomark.org/archives/2004/04/12/dream [diveintomark.org]
    and here:
    http://diveintomark.org/archives/2004/04/10/gmail- accessibility [diveintomark.org]

    My favorite quotes:
    If your web site doesn't work in Lynx, your web site is thoroughly, thoroughly fucked.

    The only way to use Gmail is the way that the Gmail designers use Gmail. The only way Gmail could be less accessible is if the entire site were built in Flash.

    That said, I have a gmail account and I think it looks great. Still, that's an awesome flame from Mark Pilgrim.
  • I've got one (Score:5, Informative)

    by abe ferlman ( 205607 ) <bgtrio@nOspAm.yahoo.com> on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:27PM (#8842738) Homepage Journal
    I haven't R'd TFA yet, but I actually have a gmail account.

    My verdict: it's FAST, most everything seems to be done in javascript, much like Orkut. It's like night and day compared to yahoo, and no obtrusive slow-loading ads.

    As for the privacy stuff, Brin is right- it's pretty much gone anyway, complaining about AdSense is just rearranging the deck chairs.. Especially when you sign up for a free email service- how do you expect to have privacy with a free email service? Run your own mail server if you want privacy.

    • Re:I've got one (Score:3, Interesting)

      by windside ( 112784 )

      I haven't R'd TFA yet, but I actually have a gmail account.

      Believe me, you're not missing much. I'd much rather hear the input of a savvy geek than the that of a pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing, Rolls Royce-driving... you get the point.

      most everything seems to be done in javascript

      Fuck. Does this mean I'm not going to be able to open messages in new tabs? Hotmail's recent "facelift" (which was more of a "hackjob", if you ask me) has irritated me to no end. I use my Uni's IMAP server for most of my emai

  • by mantera ( 685223 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @07:50PM (#8842935)

    Privacy fears aren't "overblown"; just look at all the information they try to collect when you fill in the forms for Orkut, by far the most extensive and penetrating data-collection i have seen on the web. They sure are trying to build a massive database of comprehensive personal information about their users. Now add to that your emails and your search/surfing habits and the picture is complete.
  • by superultra ( 670002 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:14PM (#8843087) Homepage
    I'm surprised at how many slashdotters are so non-chalant towards Google's complete lack of respect for privacy. And let's get it straight: it is a lack of respect for privacy. Whether you're looking in someone's closet to find a skeleton or merely inventory the contents, you're still looking in someone's closet. Slashdot's general response to Gmail has been, "Well, they're being up front about it." We might be giving Google in the present permission to look in our closets now and be ok with it. But you're not only giving Present-Google permission, you're giving Future-Google permission with every email you send, and no one - even Present-Google - knows what kind of character Future-Google will have. You're not just giving one guy permission to look in your closet, you're giving him and all his descendents permission.

    If this were Microsoft's brilliant idea, say Mmail, you'd be all over it like flies at a honey maker convention. So where are the flies?
  • by waimate ( 147056 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @08:40PM (#8843263) Homepage
    Seems to me the big thing Gmail has to offer is searchability. But you won't need to sign up for a "hotmail" style email account for get decent search.

    Anyway, how many corporates are going to abandon Outlook and go in through a webmail interface instead? For that matter, how many non-corporates are going to abandon Eudora ?

    Webmail interfaces are fine for remote accessing your email, but nobody in their right mind uses them for infrastructural purposes. If you want decent search in your existing email client, then use ISYS email [isysemail.com] and keep using the mail client you want to.

  • OH COME ON!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sharph ( 171971 ) <sharp@sauropod.org> on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:08PM (#8843438) Homepage
    If you don't want your e-mail to be read by others, don't use PLAINTEXT!!!

    Instead use PGP or some open variant.

    Sending ANY e-mail via plaintext is almost like using "family-channel" walkie talkies. Anybody (within an area/network) could be listening.
  • by billybob ( 18401 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @09:46PM (#8843665)
    This is being blown so far out of proportion. Seriously. As countless others have said, our email is scanned all the time by third parties for spam and viruses.

    If you have concerns about Google scanning your email to place unobstrusive, sometimes-actually-useful text advertisements next to your email, then there is a solution. DON'T FLIPPING USE IT! That's all there is too it!

    The thing that I'M concerned about is if they pull a similar move that Apple did with mac.com accounts. "Oh yah they'll be free forever", then two years later, once everyone is hooked on free @mac.com email addresses, they turn around and say they're going to charge $99 dollars per year. Excuse me? I dont think so. My mac.com email was my main email for nearly two years and as soon as they pulled that shit, I cancelled my account, bought my own domain, and now have free email for life. Apple was hoping that users would pay because they had been using that email address as their main email and wouldnt want to switch. Well it didnt work on me and yo should have read the mac message boards when this happened. People were pissed!

    I do think Gmail is a cool idea. Being able to store a gig of email so you (as an average user anyways) never have to delete email and have the best search engine in the world to search through old emails is awesome. But what if their idea is to get you hooked so you wont ever want to give it up, then start charging a fee for it? Even though it is worth probably $100/year, I would tell them to shove their bill up their ass and move on. This is why I won't use Gmail.
  • by Everyman ( 197621 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:04PM (#8843756) Homepage
    Guess who besides Forbes sat down with Google last week? The Electronic Frontier Foundation [eff.org]. "EFF strongly recommends that Gmail users delete the Google cookie often." I wonder why this link wasn't considered by Slashdot?
  • by drewhearle ( 753120 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @10:19PM (#8843817) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand why nobody gets this - Gmail is a service, not a requirement! It is not mandatory that everyone in the world signs up for Gmail. For crying out loud, it's free! If you like it, use it; if you don't, then nothing is stopping you from not signing up.

    All spam filters "read" your email. AOL, Hotmail, anything with SpamAssasin, any service with spam protection needs to "read" messages to analyze them.

    Oh, and about this:
    ..."residual copies of email may remain on our systems for some time"...
    They use computers with hard drives! They can't guarantee that data is completely shredded. I'm sure they're not performing a secure wipe of every sector containing portions of an email once it's deleted.

    If you started looking, most of the privacy "concerns" with Google's service apply to almost any email service. It's a huge fuss over nothing.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"