Gmail, the email service offered by Google, has been around for quite some time now, although it is still in beta. You cannot sign up for Gmail, but if your friends have one, they could invite you. I have been using Yahoo for my personal email and I have been toying around with the idea of switching over to Gmail permanently. Here is my analysis of the situation, starting with the good stuff first.
- Lots of storage: Before Gmail came around, Yahoo and Hotmail were offering 2 to 4 MB storage, which required one to constantly delete emails and be careful not to exceed the limit to prevent incoming mail from bouncing. Those days are over now. When Gmail started with a 1 GB free storage, it seemed crazy. But it started making sense when Yahoo also started offering the same. They were fleecing us! Hooray for competition.
Of course, this point is no longer a differentiating factor now since both Yahoo! Mail and Gmail have free storage in the gigabytes. I don’t receive any personal emails that would fill up that space. Emails with photo attachments have been on the decrease as people use online photo sharing services.
- Gmail saves Google Talk messages. This is a big plus when compared to Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo. When you use multiple systems (at home, work or on the road) to chat with someone, Google Talk messages are saved to the server-based Gmail application. This makes it easy to pull up some message instead of having to access the system on which you chatted.
- The AJAX functionality (which means “no page refresh” when you hit any button) is also a very welcome feature. It feels both cool and odd at the same time to use the AJAX features, especially after a decade of waiting for the screen refreshes. Yahoo! has nothing to offer so far, but the new beta site is coming up with an Outlook-like interface which I believe has AJAX features.
- The first of the two features which is stopping me from switching over to Gmail is the lack of a synchronization feature for the Address book. The Address book does not have as many features as Yahoo does, either.
- The lack of folders in Gmail is very confusing. Because of Google’s emphasis on search, they state that labels are better for searching than folders. This is okay only if your Inbox is very small with few emails or you are very disciplined in labeling emails you receive. In fact, the whole concept is as ridiculous as saying that you can have one folder in Windows Explorer and just use labels to search them.
Final assessment: I am going to hold on to my Yahoo account and see how the new beta version pans out. Gmail may make its move sooner. It will be a great time for consumers.