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Gmail




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Let me first say that I have little doubt that I will be switching all my mail activity to Gmail. This is email as it should be - Google has nailed it, plain and simple. Forget Outlook, Mac's Mail.app, whatever: Gmail is how email should be done.

I do have one major concern, and that relates to the advertising. No, I'm not one of those who is upset about the ads; my worry is that I haven't seen very many of them. Realistically, providing a Gigabyte of disk space and a few billion cpu cycles daily doesn't cost Google very much, so Gmail ads wouldn't have to tempt me all that often to be profitable, but the ads will have to grab me once in a while because somebody has to pay for this. I would have thought that my email, being both voluminous and heavily loaded with tech words and phrases, would have caused Gmail to present me with quite a few ads, but it hasn't. I get 50 or more legitimate emails daily, and four times that number in spam. Many of the non-spam emails attract no Gmail ads at all. The spam, which I'm unlikely to even look it, of course does attract ads.

For those real emails that do trigger an ad, I confess that most of the time I didn't notice. Frankly, I'm concentrating on reading and responding to my email. It was only when I deliberately went back to review mail with the specific intent of seeing what kind of ads were generated that I noticed them. Those ads are appropriate and well targeted, so I might well click into one now and then, but if I don't see them in normal use because my attention is on my actual email, what good are they going to do?

Well, that's not my problem. Gmail is more than good enough that I'd pay for it. Hear that, Google? If the ads don't generate enough, don't can the project: it's worth paying for.

The Gmail way

Why is this so good? The problem all heavy email users have is organizing and searching our mail. It isn't the instantaneous reading and sending that is our major concern; it's finding records of conversations. In traditional email applications, we do that by dumping messages in folders, and tagging messages with labels or color codes. Gmail has a better way.

When you are looking at a Gmail message, you have only a very few actions available. You can tag the message as Spam, which immediately moves it to a Spam folder. You can move it to Trash, or you can Archive it. Finally, you can tag it with a label (or labels) or "star it" (described later). Other than printing, or marking it read or unread, that's about it. Nothing complicated, and it might seem too simple, but the simplicity is the secret here: the power comes from the deliberately limited interface.

My Email mess

Like most busy folks, my email has been a mess. I have stuff I need to take care of ASAP, messages about shipments I need to watch for, on-going technical conversations with clients and vendors, and so on. I've tried to organize it all with folders and labels and colors and it Just Does Not Work. I end up with an Inbox that is too big, hundreds of folders and sub folders, and when I need to find something, it takes forever and often is a frustrating game of hide and seek.

My first day with Gmail was a refreshing relief. As always, I had several on-going back and forth conversations with various people on various subjects. Gmail understands conversations, so when a new message about "xyz" arrives from Joe, I see all the other messages related to this that Joe and I have sent back and forth. That's automatic, with no effort on my part. If I choose, I can tag messages with labels. These are custom defined; I started with "To do" and "Watch for". Labels effectively become folders: your message or conversation is now available under each label you tagged it with. As you can tag with multiple labels, mail messages can "appear" in more than one place.

Apple has threaded messages in Mail.app that are very similar to Google "conversations". But those are slow, a bit clumsy, and in my opinion, not as well implemented as they are in Gmail.

There's one special, predefined label, the "star". This is just a yellow star you can click on or off quickly. Starred messages/conversations appear under the "Starred" folder. I quickly realized that I didn't need my "To-do" label; starring is quicker and easier, and as I attend to the task, un-starring is again quicker than removing a label.

Actually, I'm not sure I'm going to need many labels at all because of Gmail's Google-like searching capability. All I do with most messages is hit Archive, confident that the message will remain threaded into its proper conversation and that I can easily bring it up at any time with a few key words. I don't have to "organize"; Gmail's context searching does it for me. I suppose I might find use for a few labels here and there, but I suspect I may need none at all. So my actions become even more simple: report it as spam, or reply and "star" it if appropriate, then hit Archive. All done. Very nice feeling, that.

Composition

The only options in composing email (other than the obvious cc and bcc) are to attach a file and check spelling. That annoys my wife, who uses Word as her email editor and likes to bold face, change fonts,indent paragraphs, etc. I try to explain to her that she shouldn't be doing any of this at all, but it falls on very stubborn ears. Her attitude is that most of the world will see her email just as she sees it, so my protests about purity and the evils of HTML mail are unimportant.

Unfortunately, many other folks probably share that feeling, so Gmail will likely have to address it sooner or later.

Google support says they will be adding:

  • Automatic forwarding of your email to another account
  • Plain HTML version of Gmail
  • Import/export Contacts

Update: Gmail has added html formatting, pop mail capability and more.

The 1 GB Storage

Much has been made of the generous storage allowance Gmail provides. Yes, compared to the miserly amounts some other folks have offered, 1 GB is big news. But really: it isn't all that much. I'll probably fill that in three years, maybe less. Yes, that's a lot, and I could certainly stretch that out by getting rid of older stuff that I'm unlikely to need, but I won't want to. My hope and expectation is that Google will sell additional storage to big Gmail users. I never know what conversational snippet I may need to reference in the future, so I want to save it all.

Spam and Viri

I don't know what Google is using for Spam filtering. It looks like it could be SpamAssassin or some other Bayesian filter. Like most nowadays, it catches a lot, but also lets quite a few get in (Gmail does not load images, so you won't be accidentally notifying spammers that you saw their mail). The "Report Spam" button which moves them to the Spam folder seems to imply that Gmail will be "learning" your Spam tolerance, but I don't know how much (if at all) Gmail will take advantage of its ability to see what other folks mark as spam. I would think that learning from thousands of individuals could really improve the filtering, but we'll see. One improvement that could be made here is automatic deletion of Spam after some period of days. Presently you have to visit the Spam folder to delete these completely. That's really important for those of us who are big spam magnets; I get several megabytes of spam daily. If I didn't get rid of it, I could probably fill up my 1 GB Gmail storage in a very few months or even weeks. When the Trash folder is empty, Gmail says " No conversations in the trash. Who needs to delete when you have 1000 MB of storage?! ", but if you are getting lots of spam daily, you do need to delete.

Gmail suppoprt says spam is automatically deleted after 30 days. I'm going to let mine sit and see what it builds up to.

There's no mention of virus scanning anywhere. I would think that is a definite feature Gmail should offer (at extra cost, of course). Double scanning, once by your ISP and again with a different anti-virus vendor at your PC, increases the detection rate and protects you more (see http://aplawrence.com/Unixart/dhantivirus.html).

Google does mention viri in their Help section, where they say that they don't let Gmail accept executable files:

Gmail does not accept these types of files, even if they are sent in a
zipped (.zip, .tar, .tgz, .taz, .z, .gz) format. If someone tries to
send this type of message to your Gmail account, the message will be
bounced back to the sender.
 

That's not necessarily a good thing: from time to time, some of us do need to send executables through mail.

That brings up another point: there's no reason to give up your existing email addresses in most cases: just have them redirected to your Gmail address. If Gmail does start offering virus scanning, you might be able to take this to three levels: once at your first ISP, once by Gmail, and finally by your local PC for any attachment you actually open.

Spreading Fast

Gmail is still in Beta as this review is being written, but it is spreading fast, because existing Gmail users get to invite a few other folks in (sorry, yes, I have used up my invitations).

Update: Google has begun to loosen up. I have a few invitations available for readers of this site.




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For a slightly paranoid contrary view, see http://gmail-is-too-creepy.com/

--TonyLawrence

The folks at "GMAIL is too creepy" may be "slightly paranoid" but for good reason. I share their view that GMAIL is a serious hazard to the right to privacy. BTW, I have set a total block against gmail.com on my mail servers.

--BigDumbDinosaur

I don't agree.

Once you send email, you have lost all privacy anyway.
See http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/wlg/4707

Besides, you can't really prevent your email correspondence from ending up in Gmail. If you mail to me at my regular address, it can redirect to gmail. I can send to you from a non-gmail address and bcc my gmail account. Our entire conversation ends up in gmail, just as it would if you were not blocking.

Finally, with regard to privacy concerns, the very same issues exist with Yahoo mail, AOL and Msn mail and a host of others. Do you block all those addresses? Some of my customers now routinely archive all incoming and outgoing mail - transfer it to CD's even, and will be keeping every bit of it for years. They are financial and medical folk; just the kind of data people worry about. Will you block email from your doctor?

Let's move any further discussion to http://aplawrence.com/Blog/B910.html please




--TonyLawrence






---July 23, 2004

Is anyone having problems getting on their gmail? Lately hen I try to log in, I get a screen that says Loading, then another screen that says "redirecting to http://gmail.google.com/gmail" which then cycles over and over, forever. I have Zone Alarm - is is possible it's blocking, or is this something else?
Thanks, guys -



---July 26, 2004

I also have Zone Alarm, and I'm also having the same issues on both of my home PC's, but I have that issue even with Zone Alarm off. I even un-installed it entirely on one of them just to check. I'm wondering if the hardware firewall that's built into my router is doing it. When I have my laptop at my fiance's house on the wireless network, the laptop gives me a different problem. It tells me that I need to set my browser to allow javascript to enable cookies, or something to that effect. So... I have only once gotten into my gmail account, and that was from a computer at a friend's house. I just went through all the trouble-shooting (which I had to find through an internet search since there isn't a link directly from the www.gmail.com or gmail.google.com page) and followed all instructions for both the "loading" error, and the javascript error. If anyone has any ideas other than the provided help subjects... please do post as we'll all keep an eye out!

G.P.

---July 26, 2004


Nope. I use it with Firefox and Mozilla on Mac and also on Xp when I have to use my wife's machine. Haven't seen this.
What OS/Browser?

--TonyLawrence


---July 27, 2004

I have XP Pro edition on all computers that will not load it. the one that will load it is just XP Home edition. Perhaps the PRO has something built in that's messing up? I'm runnint Internet Explorer 6, and it's same build version on machine that works as on the machine that doesn't work, along with all identical security/firewall/proxy/password/cache settings.

G.P.

ROUND 2 FOR TODAY:

To see if it was the browser, I downloaded and installed Netscape 7.1 and restarted. Tried to log in, and got the same issue of "Redirecting to http://gmail.google.com/gmail" and then "LOADING..." stuck in a rapidly reloading loop, so... the browser isn't the issue. I wonder if it has to do with my broadband company... but that shouldn't be the case, because my laptop doesn't work at my friend's house, even though their computer does... oh well... back to the drawing board on how to get INTO my gmail account now that I have one!

G.P.

---July 27, 2004

It's not XP Pro, because that's what my wife uses. BUT: I was having trouble yesterday afternoon - it cleared up after about a half hour. This morning, I couldn't get in with Firefox: blank page. Safari went right in, though.

Quit Firefox, restarted it, and it went right in.. to a blank page :-)

--TonyLawrence


---July 27, 2004

Cleared cache, and Firefox was fine..

--TonyLawrenced




---July 28, 2004

I wonder if this
http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=26100039
is at all related?


---July 29, 2004

Hi Guys - Jack back. I fixed the problem on my machine and it was Zone Alarm. I went to Privacy, Site tab, and found gmail there [??] - I allowed the third party cookie and it fixed it. Zone Alarm seems to me an example of what doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger. I don't know if it will work for all of you, but you might want to take a look at your third party cookie restrictions.

Cheers, Jack

---August 19, 2004

Hey, I tried this, but it didn't work. I even cleared the cache but I still can't get to gmail. It keeps saying that I need to have cookies enabled, but I do. I even shut down zone alarm and it still doesnt work. I'm fidning this a bit frustrating. I'm using Firefox, but it was working fine just a few days ago.

Justin

---August 20, 2004
---August 28, 2004

Hi all, thanks for the informative link. I too have zone alarm and just cured my mystery redirect loop by enabling gmail 3rd party cookie control under the Privacy settings.

---October 1, 2004

Thank you sooo much for the information! I was ready to dump gmail for the endles redirecting and loops. Since I'm running Zone Alarm as well, I had to do the same. Other than the endless redirects, gmail is pretty good. Once it goes public, I'm kissing my Hotmail account goodbye :) Thanks again!
~mOnKeYgUrL~

---October 11, 2004

Thanx Jack!!! This worked! I had Zone Alarm too and was just waiting around thinking that gmail was still working out its kinks. Well, thank you again.
gracee.grace



---October 18, 2004
Okay, when I did a search on google's search engine for "google error gmail error redirecting to http://gmail.google.com/gmail" it brought up many sites, including this one. However, one of the sites further down the list eventually helped me. I had to go into Tools > Internet Options, the click on the Security tab, then select Trusted Sites, and click on the Sites... button. After that, I typed in every variation of the google/gmail site, and added it. Oh, to do this, I had to uncheck the box that says "Require server verification for this zone" If you do a search the way I did, in the google search engine (msn, webcrawler, yahoo, and others all gave me nothing useful) then further down the list you should see the site that had instructions. Worked on all my computers (I'm the one with XP Pro, IE6, that installed Netscape to see if it would help, and disabled Zone Alarm for the same reason... but finally found that this works! YAY!)

~ GBP



---November 10, 2004

If you're running XP Pro, click "Don't Allow Exceptions" in the firewall settings. It worked for me on IE6, Maxthon and Opera.

kjm


---January 3, 2005

Holy cow, scared at the last comment, I would remove it if I would not feel so rude.

Maybe find out what exceptions are first. Inbound listeners are not used by gmail - it's a client javascript app running inside your browser!

Why on earth would you assume that the XP firewall has anything to do with a gmail connection error anyway?

I suspect there is something else afoot with your computer.





Sat Apr 16 01:52:52 2005: 347   Quixilvr


After reading through this thread, I tried to find the Privacy tab on my ZoneAlarm, only to find out its only in the ZoneAlarm Pro (not free) version, so I can't set it up to accept the cookies. After tryint to make a few adjustments and doing a few experiements I found out that if you go to the link

https://gmail.google.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow" >https://gmail.google.com/">https://gmail.google.com/ (notice the S in httpS://)

Just put an S in front of the http for any page that is stuck loading and it seems to work. Enjoy ;-)

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