Gmail: The Most Successful Accident
How A Small Personal Project Revolutionized The Digital World
Google is a prolific company: it has countless successes, whilst also having a past riddled with immense failure — Google’s Pixel Smartphones and the Google Glass project. Despite their occasional foundering, Google has remained a formidable force and prevailing name in the industry.
Reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars every second, Google has evidently proven its worth to the world, and one of the innovations that solidified them in the position of preeminence was Gmail.
It’s safe for me to assume that you’re aware of this application or, at the very least, aware of it. With over 1.8 billion users and counting, Gmail truly revolutionized the space of online communications.
Despite more recent pursuits of third-party software and intense competition from social networking sites, Gmail has remained active.
For innovation of this size, one would likely assume that it was a decade-long endeavor that required heavy financial investment to be established. However, this is not the case; Gmail was quite literally an accident and wasn’t meant to be as large as it is today. They truly have an interesting tail as one of the most recognizable software developments of all time.
Paul Buchheit, an employee at Google, began to work on Gmail as a personal project at work in the summer of 2001. He had studied the inner workings of other mail services such as Hotmail and was interested in pursuing a more updated and capable version of it.
At the time, there was another google software-one that doesn’t exist anymore today-similar to Gmail in a few ways called Google Groups. Despite not having an email function, it still has established communicative features. Siphoning some code off of this, Paul was able to fabricate a mockup design of Gmail within a day.
He went on to create a preliminary version of Gmail that beat out possible competitors at the time, like Hotmail or Yahoo Mail.
From the front-end, the development seemed quite normal, having a UI similar to the other interfaces and packing in limited HTML customization. However, in the back-end, Paul was able to do something Google’s competitors hadn’t thought of.
In their mail applications, companies generally utilized basic HTML and mixed it with a bit of server-side programming in order to create the service; for this reason, the software was buggy and required users to wait and reload just for an email to go through.
Moreover, they limited space in the application to a mere 2 to 4 MB, which at the time was standard, but required users to constantly delete past emails to have space for the new ones.
Moreover, given Google’s massive servers and storage capabilities, they were able to offer users up to 1 GB of storage for their email needs, far more than any other competitor at the time.
Soon enough, more individuals began to work on the project and constant updates were being made on both the interface and functionality of the application.
It was eventually launched to the public-it was used extensively within the walls of the company before public access-in the spring of 2004 and over a dozen people had been responsible for the development of this project.
Needless to say, the project took off and was immensely popular. Due to the capability and offerings of Gmail, it has become one of the most recognizable software in the world, let alone Google’s key lineup.
Gmail owns the majority of the market share in the email provider domain and is even more popular with the incoming generation, with whom Google has a strong relationship due to its prestige.
Over the years that the service has developed, it’s estimated that each account is worth well over 3000 dollars of value for the individual utilizing it and there are millions upon millions of emails going out daily.
Despite what it initially set out to be as a personal endeavor, Gmail ended up conquering the world. While Google might not always have successes, when they do, it is generally huge.
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