If Google announces something new and potentially groundbreaking on April 1st, one might instantly chalk it up as an April Fools’ prank. That’s because the company takes part in this frivolity, cooking up ingenious pranks to catch us all by surprise. But on April 1st 2004 Google wasn’t pulling off a prank. It issued a press release that day announcing the launch of Gmail, its webmail service. Some might have thought of it as a prank, but soon they’d find out that Gmail was in fact very real, and here to stay.
Word had already hit the rumor mill a day before the launch. What raised eyebrows was the assumption that Gmail would offer all users 1GB of storage capacity, a whooping 500 times more than what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered at that time. Again, it wasn’t some elaborate hoax. Google really did offer 1GB storage to all Gmail users.
Gmail was perhaps one of the biggest products to come out of Google after its search engine, which debuted in 1998. It instantly took on popular webmail services like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, who were market leaders at the time. Storage was one major factor, but its simple interface, advanced features and instant search capability played their part in poaching users.
Over the next ten years Gmail would radically evolve. Till 2009 it carried the beta tag and had been through several redesigns. Just last year Google revamped the design, introducing tabs, which actually drew criticism from some users. Google played its part in disrupting webmail a decade ago, and its safe to say that Gmail isn’t going anywhere any time soon.