Saturday, June 19, 2004

GMail, A Review

So I was reading a review of GMail today on slashdot today, and happened to mention to someone on IRC that I would like an account. Well wouldn't ya know they just happened to have an invite, so botta bing botta boom I have a gmail account. I figgured since this seems to be a topic of some interest to a lot of people, I would give my opinion of gmail, and the privacy issues surrounding it.

First off, gmail. If you've been locked in a closet for the last 6 months, gmail is a forey into the email area by everyone's favorite search engine, google. Google is offering up 1GB of storage, a slick user interface, and the ability to search your email using googles powerful search engine.

The user interface seems to be the first thing that everyone raves about. To be honest, I don't see what's so hot about it. The interface is definitely a breath of fresh air compared to hyperactive sites like Yahoo! and Hotmail. Even on my high bandwidth cable connection, Hotmail and Yahoo both are slow to load, I have seen how long it takes to load on dialup, and cannot see how they have so much popularity. Google does win hands down in this aspect, with it's clean, text based user interface, I imagine that gmail would be sleek and fast even on dialup. Having established that, relatively, the gmail interface is excellent, I think it could use a little tweeaking before it would merit all the prais it recives.

The 1GB storage space is definitely a feature worthy of noting, but there is not a lot to say on the subject. Google provides you with 1GB (though it's listed as 1000MB I have heard reports that you are infact given the full 1024GB of space). I have a hard time imagining that I will ever be starved for space with 1GB, since I am in the habbit of keeping a pretty clean mailbox, but it will certainly be nice to have the extra space for transfering large files. Doing graphic art and some 3D animation, I transfer quite a few files over 50MB or 100MB, and I am interested to see how much of a boon this extra storage space turns out to be in this case.

Because of the relatively short amount of time that I've had the account, I cannot say much about the spam filter, other than that I have not, thus far, seen any spam reach my inbox.

One nice feature of gmail is the spell checking. I composed a several page long email and ran spell check on it, and it managed to recognize a number of mispelled words, without marking too many technical terms. Spell checking works much like it does in any word processor, with mis-spelled words highlighted, and then the user clicks on them, it proposed a list of possible correctly spelled words to choose from. This is a feature which I never understood why other email providers did not offer.

One thing that seems to have been a huge deal among the paranoid privacy advocate crowd is the gmail privacy policy. Simple stated, people are going apeshit because gmail states that they will have a machine analyse your email. While I wouldn't like a person sitting there reading my email, I fail to see what the deal is with having the machine analyse your mail. The fact is, pretty much every spam filter is already going to be browsing your email anyway. Google just goes a step fruther by providing ads targeted at the subject of your email, based on analysing the content of it. My thoughts on this are that google does have to make money on this, or what's the point?, and I would prefer to have ads based on something that I'm interested in than some random flashing blinking pop-up advertisement. I think the people who get upset with what google is doing are the same people who freak out when their TiVo starts suggesting programming for them, people who fail to understand that machines are not (yet) congizant and capable of understanding the text they are parsing.

Ads are, just as with google's website, text based and completely non-intrusive. As stated above, google groks the content of your email to provide targed ads, similar to the targed ads when you run a web search. For the most part these ads stay out of the way and are pretty easy to ignore.

For more information on GMail, just search around on the web, there are a lot of articles written by people who have more experience with the system, and are better writers than I.

Untill next time, I'm signing off.

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