How Was IT Developed

How was Gmail Developed?

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Updated April 26, 2021 Louise

We all know Google, including all of its different apps and services, but what do we know about Gmail and How Was Gmail Developed? In this article, we will go back to the beginning of 2004, where there were three web email services on the current market. These were Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo.

How was Gmail developed?
Source: Pixabay

 

That long time ago, when Google was just growing as a search engine and was still far from becoming the intricate network of apps and services that it is today.

 

On April 1, 2004, Google decided to join the race of email providers and launched Gmail. However, because of that exact date, people initially thought it was an “Aprils Fool” joke, and Gmail was met with a bit of disbelief and suspicion. Today though, people believe that April 1st, 2004 will forever be marked as the beginning of the modern era of the web.

 

The idea of Google, one of the biggest search engines at that time, making an email service was quite surprising, and the so-called storage capacity of 1GB, which was 500 times more than Microsoft’s Hotmail offered, just seemed absolutely impossible.

 

But, Gmail was a real idea, a very real idea we now all know, love, and are quite dependent on. In fact, today Gmail is one of the top email services in the world and is now providing 15 gigabytes of storage.

 

Users can receive emails up to 50 megabytes in size, including attachments, but they can only send emails up to 25 megabytes. In order to send larger files, users can insert files from Google Drive into the message. Moreover, Gmail has a search-oriented interface and a “conversation view” similar to an internet forum.

 

What is Gmail?

Gmail is a free email service developed by Google. Users can get access to Gmail on the web and use programs that synchronize email content through POP or IMAP protocols. Gmail started as a limited beta release on April 1, 2004 and ended its testing phase on July 7, 2009. That’s right, it took Google more than 5 years to release the final Gmail version.

 

At launch, Gmail had an initial storage capacity offer of one gigabyte per user. This sounds little now, but at the time it was a significantly higher amount than competitors offered at the time.

 

Why do we need Gmail?

Gmail has benefitted from Google’s innovations and is now one of the most popular email services, differentiating itself from its competitors through a plethora of features and benefits such as:

  • An ever-increasing amount of storage space instead of a set amount like Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL;
  • An interface that works more naturally than the package system used by the other services;
  • Gmail accounts can be used to access other Google services as well as unrelated services through social login APIs;
  • Gmail adds a lot of features that are not often found on an average email account such as Calendar integration, Google Notes integration, Contacts, Tasks and more;
  • Other services such as Google Docs, Googe Calendar, and Google Chat work flawlessly with Gmail, which can be used as an efficient way to collaborate with others;
  • It is an authoritative, secure and reliable tool;
  • It is suited for both businesses as well as personal accounts,
  • And, Gmail comes with an excellent mobile version, where users can connect or sync all of their Gmail accounts for faster access to their emails and better control and overview.

 

How much does Gmail cost?

Gmail is completely free to use for personal accounts, but there are some premium features that you need to pay for, like extra inbox storage. However, companies can get a paid version of Gmail as a part of the Google My Business Suit, where they can choose to use their corporate domain as an email domain instead of the “traditional” @gmail.com.

 

For example, if your website domain is example.com, your businesses’ email address will look something like [email protected]

 

If you choose the paid version of Gmail you will have unlimited group email addresses, guaranteed uptime, much more storage into your personal Gmail (30GB), no ads, support in every hour of the day, Microsoft Exchange support, and much more.

 

So if you want to use Gmail with your business in mind, then you will probably need the paid version. The start price for the paid version of Gmail will be at $5 per month, per user.

 

What language is Gmail available in?

Gmail uses languages from all around the world.

 

In 2015 the Gmail interface was using 72 different languages, including Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Malayalam, Marathi, Norwegian (Bokmål), Odia, Polish, Punjabi, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog (Filipino), Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Zulu.

 

More inputs

In October 2012, Google added over 100 virtual keyboards, translations, and input method editors to Gmail, allowing users different types of inputs. They did this to help users write in languages that aren’t limited by the language of your keyboard.

 

How to access Gmail
Source: Pixabay

 

Then, in 2013 Google added handwriting inputs to Gmail, and in 2014 Gmail became the first big email supplier, to let users send and receive emails from addresses with accent marks and letters outside the Latin alphabet.

 

How to Access Gmail

You don’t need a Google account to set up Gmail. In fact, all you need is a valid existing email address and agree to Google’s terms and conditions. Moreover, having a Gmail account makes it easy to use other Google services, such as AdSense, AdWords or Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), Blogger, Youtube, Google+, and all other Google properties.

 

One question a lot of people seem to have is in relation to the difference between a Google account and a Gmail account. They are not necessarily the same thing. The catch is, you are allowed to create a Google account using your existing email account.

 

That is not a Gmail account, but an account that allows you access to some of Google’s services. On the other hand, if you do create a Gmail account, it automatically becomes your Google account with access to all of Google’s services using that id and password.

 

So basically, Gmail accounts are always Google Accounts, but Google Accounts aren’t Gmail accounts if you are using a different email from [email protected]

 

How do you get access to a Gmail account?

  1. Go to https://www.gmail.com
  2. Click the button that says, “Create an account” on the bottom right box.
  3. Carefully fill out all the fields on the form
  4. Click “I accept. Create my account”. You will be taken to an introduction page. Click “Show me my account”.
How was Gmail developed?
Source: Pixabay

With a Gmail username and password, you will be able to access a lot of different Google services, such as:

  • Google Analytics – To track visitors to your website
  • Blogger – Blogging site
  • Google Calendar – A calendar directly integrated with Gmail
  • Google Docs – An online document editor directly integrated with Gmail; a Microsoft Office online substitute.
  • YouTube – Online video streaming
  • Google Sites – To create websites and wikis
  • Google Dashboard – Your portal to all of the Google services that can be accessed with your Gmail or Google account, from one interface.

 

How was Gmail developed? The Story behind

At first, only a limited group of opinion leaders were invited into the Beta test version of Gmail, and they were in turn allowed to invite their friends and family. Then users from Blogger.com were also sent invitations, and within a short time, these invitations had become precious commodities.

 

Some were being sold on eBay for as much as $150 and websites that swapped invitations started appearing all over the web. Soon Gmail started allowing its users to invite as many as 50 people, and it started growing exponentially until almost anyone who wanted to join could easily get an invite from someone they knew.

 

In 2005 Gmail had increased its mailbox storage size to 2GB, a huge amount of storage by 2005 standards, and had become available in many languages beyond English. But also, Google has continually added new features, and finally, in 2009, it removed the “Beta” status from its name.

 

The co-founder of Google, Larry Page says, that the company was inspired to make Gmail because other users were complaining about problems with the existing email services at that time, like the need to delete messages all the time because of storage limits, and lack of searchability.

 

At the time, the two largest e-mail services, Yahoo and Microsoft, allowed users only four megabytes and two megabytes respectively for email storage.

 

Google’s system also scans emails automatically for various purposes; to filter spam and to add context advertisements beside the emails, however, the advertisement part has been criticized a lot by privacy advocates because of many data privacy concerns.

 

Some of these concerns were unlimited data retention, ease of monitoring, users from other providers that have not agreed on the policy sending emails to Gmail addresses, and that Google needs to change its policies to decrease privacy so they will not combine information with usage for other Google data.

 

In fact, Google has been the subject of many lawsuits concerning these issues. Over the years, Google stated that email users must accept that their emails will be subject for processing and claimed that the service refrains from displaying ads next to sensitive emails, like mentions of race, religion, or health statements.

 

Nevertheless, in 2017, Google announced that they would not use contextual Gmail content for advertising anymore. They would rather rely on data collected in its use on other services. In 2018 there were 1.5 billion active users worldwide on Gmail.

 

Important moments in Gmails development

November 2011

Google changed its interface into a more minimalist design, so it could provide a more consistent look within all its products and services. The change affected different elements, which included a conversation view, concentration of information, new quality themes, a resizable navigation bar with labels and contacts, and a more advanced search.

 

Users were presented with the new interface design some months before the actual release, and in March 2012, Google officially transitioned into the new design.

 

New content management tabs

In 2013 Google did some updates on the Gmail inbox by adding tabs that allowed the application to sort all the user’s emails. The tabs are Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. The users were also allowed to disabled the updates and return to the traditional inbox structure.

 

A better UI

In 2018, Google presented a web UI for Gmail. The new design looked like Google’s Material Design. Furthermore, there was a new change to the user interface, which is the use of Google’s Product Sans font. Other updates as confidential mode, which allows users to set an expiration date for a sensitive message or to cancel it completely, and integrated rights management.

 

Introducing a night version

In 2019, Gmail was scheduled to get a black theme for its iOS and Android apps, but they said it was limited to only Android 10 and iOS 11 users.

 

 

Interface and design Gmail
Source: Pixabay

Interface and design

Nowadays, we are using different email services for communication all the time, but when it comes to UI and interfaces, Gmail might have the most unique one. Also, probably the most unique thing about Gmail is that it allows you to manage emails in a conversation view, which is simpler and faster for the users.

 

Furthermore, almost all of Gmail’s features are search-oriented, and in general, it made emailing more user-friendly through this easy interface.

 

However, it turns out that a clever UI was not such an easy task, even for Kevin Fox, Google’s go-to UX expert between 2003 and 2008. Fox is the designer behind many of Google’s services suchas Google Calendar and Google Reader. But Gmail was a challenge, and at first, it had the most basic frontend.

 

Fox knew that they wanted Gmail to look like Google, but other than that it was not that clear what Google actually meant. Back then, Google did not have a big collection of services. The company had their search engine, and needed Fox to draw some inspiration from was Google News, which had just started in September of 2002.

 

But the search engine and the News were websites, while Gmail was going to be a web app. So, Fox decided to take keys elements from both websites and desktop applications but without copying. After three big passes on designing the Gmail interface, he completed the look, which is very similar in today’s version of Gmail.

 

Gmail Interface

 

The Gmail creator Poul Buchheit worked on the limits of HTML by using interactive JavaScript code. This gave it a more software kind of feeling, and after a while, this method was called AJAX, which stands for “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML”. Today, every web app is built like this.

 

The more Gmail was using JavaScript, the more unique and high-tech it got. With the goal of making it easy to follow a discussion on Gmail, all the messages were put together into a group called a conversation, with a text automatically concealed. From a design perspective, they were trying to make the conversations obvious for the user, which was one of the biggest challenges.

 

Furthermore, there was the Business model of Gmail. Buchheit wanted Gmail to reach as many people as they could, and that was the argument for Gmail to be for free and supported by advertising. Not surprisingly, the plan worked and today the ads are a huge part of Google’s entire revenue stream.

 

Gmail features

Smart Compose will finish your sentences

The Smart Compose feature on Gmail will finish your sentences for you. When you write an email, the unique artificial intelligence algorithm on Gmail will guess what you are about to write, then with just one click, the suggestion will be put into your text. You and Gmail are like the best of friends, and Gmail will always try to finish your sentences!

 

If you don’t have the Smart Compose feature turned on, go to Settings → General, and then click on “Smart Compose”. Googles AI will simultaneously turn on the “Personalization” setting so it can learn from your speech and Gmail will make specially tailored suggestions only through your preferences and behavior.

 

You will also be able to give feedback for Smart Compose, so the feature will get to know your style even better. If you want to do this; go to “More Options” and at the bottom of the email toolbar next to the Trash icon, you will select “Smart Compose Feedback.”

 

Schedule plan for sending emails

What to do if you are planning on announcing a big development next week but you are going on vacation, where there is no WIFI? With the scheduling feature n Gmail, you will be able to decide whenever you want to send an email by the exact time and date.

 

schedule emails in gmail

 

Simply click on the small upward arrow next to “Send” when you are done writing your email, then click on “Schedule Send”. Pick a date and time, click on schedule, and you’re done! And if you change your mind, you can always go back and change the schedule.

 

Lots of keyboard shortcuts

Gmail is full of keyboard shortcuts, which will make it much easier for you to handle the inbox. Press the letter “C” on the keyboard and your email compose screen will show. Furthermore, you can automatically go to your drafts if you click on B+D. There are multiple customized shortcuts that can make it so much easier for you to navigate in your Gmail.

 

Go to → Settings → Advanced, and allow Keyboard Shortcuts. A tab for keyboard shortcuts should appear in the settings window. Go through your customize options and make sure that keyboard shortcuts are turned on in Settings → General → Keyboard Shortcuts.

 

Un-send an email

No more emails sent to the wrong person or with the wrong name! Gmail has a new option where you can recall a sent message within 30 seconds after you have sent it. If you need this option on your Gmail then click on Settings → General, then click on “undo send.” You can choose up to 30 seconds before the option to call your email back will disappear.

 

Take a snooze

Have you ever gotten a stressful email in the evening and then the rest of the quality time with your family is destroyed? Gmail has a “snooze” feature that will make that problem disappear. Use “snooze” when you are in need of a break from the inbox.

 

If you want to snooze an email, then go to your main Gmail screen and click on the clock icon to the right. You will be able to snooze your email for a day or a week, a month if that is what you need. When you are ready to respond to the email it will appear again.

 

Do you need a reminder to respond to the email, and then you can drag the email from your inbox and into tasks on the right-side panel? The reminder will appear with a link under it, which will take you directly to the email. In general, it is a good idea to put emails on your to-do list as you will never forget to respond.

 

Collect it all

Have you ever looked through all your emails just to find your flying tickets, a booking reservation, or where to meet a colleague for lunch? The payment and subscription feature on Gmail will make sure you always have an overview of all your tickets, reservations, etc.

 

It is almost like a personal assistant. Gmail searches your inbox for any flight, event, or restaurant and collects them carefully in one place until you need them.

 

Do you want this feature? Then go to the circle in the top right on the Gmail screen, with an initial or personal photo. Click on Google Accounts → Payment and Subscriptions, then you can select which option you want to have. Choose between subscriptions, reservations, or purchases, so you can have the great overview that you want.

 

Put it on your tab

The tabs feature is like a personal organizer. It can divide your inbox into several different tabs, this includes everything from updates, finance, social media email, etc. The good thing about this feature is that you don’t have to switch between various tasks, from new to work to your mom’s Facebook message.

 

Instead, you can just pick which inbox you want to look into and read the necessary unread messages. Your inbox will still have all the relevant emails that you need to reply to, while the others are in the background. Go to the Settings icon → Configure Inbox and choose, which tabs you want to put your filter messages into your Gmail. You can select five different filters.

 

Other features and benefits
  • 15 GB of free mail storage
  • Access to email via mobile devices
  • Built-in chat capabilities
  • Customized tabs to help you organize your email inbox
  • Themes to change the look of Gmail
  • Video calls
  • Ability to view attachments within the email (as opposed to downloading)
  • Ability to send money
  • Effective spam filtering and virus protection

 

Gmail and Security

Google has maintained its secure HTTPS from the day it started. From the beginning, users could easily change to secure HTTPS mode after logging in to the inbox. In 2008, Google made it simpler to manually allow the secure mode. They did that with a new button within the settings.

  • 2007: Google secured a cross-site scripting issue so that no attacker could collect information or contact lists from Gmail.
  • 2010: Google started the development on HTTPS as a default for users.
  • 2012: Google introduced a new security feature to Gmail, which would protect users from state-sponsored attacks. At the top, a banner would appear and warn the user of an unofficial account agreement.
  • 2014: Google announced that an encrypted HTTPS connection would be used for the sending or receiving of all Gmail emails, so every message that you send or receive will be encrypted while moving through the company’s systems.

 

Gmail Security
Source: Pixabay

 

Gmail uses Always Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt emails that have been sent and received. On both web and Android devices, all users are able to check if messages are encrypted just by checking if the emails have a closed or open red padlock.

 

Gmail scans all incoming and outgoing e-mails automatically, due to viruses in all email attachments. Some types of files will not be allowed to send in an email, for security reasons.

 

Third-party encryption in transit

A Goggle Transparency Report around a safe email, the section provides information on emails encrypted in transfer between Gmail and third-party email providers.

 

Two-step verification

Gmail provides two-step verification, which is a possible way for users to secure their accounts when they log in.

 

When users log in on a new device are required to verify their identity by using another way to enter Gmail, after they entered with their username and password. Usually, the way is to enter a code sent to the user’s phone in a text. That is an extra security key into the computer’s USB port. The use of a security key for two-step verification was accessible as a choice in 2014.

 

24-hour lockdowns

If an algorithm which Google calls: “abnormal usage that may indicate that your account has been compromised”, the user account will automatically be locked down for 24 hours

 

Reasons to lock down a user profile:

  • Receiving, deleting, or downloading big amounts of mails through POP or IMAP within a short period. If this happens you will be able to access your Gmail account after waiting 24 hours.
  • When sending a huge number of undeliverable messages
  • If you are using file-sharing or file-storage software, browser extensions, or third-party software that will log into your account automatically
  • Leaving various cases of Gmail open
  • If there are issues with your browser and it continually reloads when entering the Gmail inbox, then you might need to close tabs, cookies, etc. on your browser.

 

In 2017 Google presented a new machine learning technology, which would identify emails with phishing and spam, having a 99.9% precision scale. Furthermore, Google announced that Gmail would delay some selected messages, to achieve a more detailed analysis, which would improve the algorithms.

 

Conclusion

So how was Gmail developed? One thing about Gmail which pretty obvious right now is that the creators of Gmail build it last. Google did surprise everyone on April 1st with 500 times more storage capacity than Microsoft’s Hotmail, which was the biggest competition on the market in 2004.

 

Gmail has made innovative features, mixed a lot of fun aspects, in real Google style, as well as the productivity features, for both complete and dynamic email service. One of the best things about Gmail is the ability to be flexible for all kinds of people, with different needs and desires, and to do what it suppose to do as a leading email service.

 

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