Sunday, April 11, 2004

Gmail Quotes: Lost in Translation

Curious to see how the press around the world is covering the Google Gmail story, I used - of course! - Google to search. I found what appeared to be part of Katie Hafner's article in a Brazilian newspaper. So I used - of course! - Google to translate it from Portuguese to English.

The results were hilarious. Automated translators often emit some pretty goofy stuff, but a couple of these were real gems:

"If the Google supplies to the user a system anti-virus and anti-Spam and a great storage and the power of its tool of search, where I can find e-mails old, I change myself", I said Richard Wiggins, technologist of the information of the State University of Michigan in East Lansing, Michigan. "Those boxes of email with 50 megas do not serve more for nothing".
"For the majority of the people, I find that he will not be terrible to read an email on Key West and an announcement to appear in the page. I do not see problem in this ", I affirmed Wiggins. "But and if I receive sympathies from a friend for the death of a together relative with an announcement of a funerary house".

Wiggins agrees. "This box of email now competes with the servers of InterNet, CDs and DVDs you rewrote and iPods to carry, to load and to share personal content", affirmed.

I assume that Ultimo Segundo used a human to translate from English to Portuguese; if not, things are doubly lost in translation.,,1573954,00.html

Thursday, April 08, 2004

New York Times Quotes on Google and Gmail

Katie Hafner quoted me in today's New York Times on the subject of Google and Gmail. See

I liked her article, especially her line about "privacy is the currency of the Internet."

One quote I'd like to see publicized: Gmail will cause the largest migration of private information in world history as millions of people move their mail from Webmail providers and local hard drives to Google's Gmail 1 gigabyte mailbox servers.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Audio link: Radio interview about Google

Yesterday the Michigan State University NPR station, WKAR, broadcast an interview between Scott Pohl and me about Google. (The Gmail story broke after we recorded the interview.)

Here's the promo:

Experts who keep an eye on the internet expect the search engine called \"Google\" to go public soon and speculation is rampant about what the company will do with the billions of dollars the initial public offering is likely to generate. Scott Pohl asked author and MSU technologist Rich Wiggins this week why so many people like and use Google. | aired Apr. 2, 2004

Here's the interview:

Radio interview with Scott Pohl about Google -- the IPO, its dominance, and more

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Google launches e-mail service with 1 gigabyte of free storage

The press is abuzz: Google plans to offer an e-mail service to blow away Yahoo mail and Hotmail, featuring 1 gigabyte of searchable storage -- 100 times what the others give for free. The idea is to let you Google your inbox instead of having to file messages into topical folders. If this is for real, it could cause the largest migration of personal information in history.

The idea of indexing your personal messages instead of manually filing into categories is exactly analogous to Googling the Web instead of Yahooing it; it makes perfect sense. I first observed someone doing this circa 1993: Hal Varian, now dean of SIMS at Berkeley, then of U Michigan, showed me how he used WAIS on his Next workstation to index all of his e-mail.

So it's a fantastic idea. Maybe too fantastic: the press release has a couple of fishy quotes; you can't sign up for the service, only register for more info; and today is... April 1. The purported site,, appeared and then vanished, but not before I got a screen cap. (As of later in the morning, the Gmail site came back up. But it still only lets you sign up to receive future information.)

My first bet was it's an April Fool joke, and a funny way to take shots across Yahoo and Microsoft's respective bows at the height of IPO fever. Folks on the Web4lib mailing list take it to be real. Virtually all of the major media picked up the story. The coverage in The Guardian noted the whimsical aspects of the press release and the April 1 timing.

If Google really does offer this service, this story has effects far greater than poaching market share from Hotmail and Yahoo mail. It's a huge blow to ISPs and Webmail providers. It will lead to a massive shift of e-mail content from from service providers around the world to Google's servers. This could be devastating to companies such as, which charge an annual fee of $40 or more to give you a 50 megabyte mailbox -- 1/20th of what Google claims it will offer for free.

Many people manage their lives in e-mail. They refer back to messages from the boss or the prof or the spouse. They send to-do messages to themselves. A 1 gigabyte searchable mailbox would be tremendously more useful than the 10 to 50 megs other providers offer. (Universities that offer paltry 50M mail accounts will see thousands of students set forwarding to their Gmail accounts. University IT administrators everywhere must be lowering their budget estimates for new storage -- and wondering how relevant their Webmail service now is.)

If also means a huge data mine for Google to exploit to offer to advertisers. The Gmail terms of service state explicitly that Google will analyze the content of your messages in order to target advertising. See: the Gmail privacy policy.

When Google raises $20 billion in its IPO, it'll have plenty of cash to pay for the service. Other Webmail providers won't be able to compete; their targeted ad programs won't have Google technology and Google ad performance.