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I am confused here...

Everyone is going on and on and on about gmail. I looked it up and at first blush, the idea looks good. An incredible amount of space for free, clean interface, no banner ads or pop ups.
Then I thought... well.. how the hell is that possible? How can they not charge or use ads?

Well, they *do* use ads. They read your mail (not personally, but using sniffers), and target ads at you in your inbox I guess (can't figure out exactly where they're placing them). Which, well, is exactly the opposite of "no spam". It's "use this by agreeing to receive spam", if they're sent to you as mail messages. Also, they do click tracking, not just for system analysis, which is understandable in a beta product, but also for the purpose of targetting ads and to see what ads you click on for a better focus on what they're sending you.
They mention that they display ads and links to you in your inbox based on the content of the mail you currently have open. There is also no opt-out for mail about gmail and other google services they send you.

It is good at least that they are this upfront about it. Their privacy statement is very clearly written.

But, well, I can't see what's great about a mail service that reads your mail. Maybe it's the security/privacy issues hound in me...
The space vs. privacy is a personal trade off, I realize. And I don't personally have to worry about paid/free email because Karl runs his own mail server so I have as many accounts I want, no limits of any kind.

I know several of you have been talking about your Gmail accounts and I've had some contact with others who've been very happy with them so far... how do you feel about the privacy issues?


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2004 01:14 pm (UTC)
"Reading your mail" is a bit of a bad description for it, because it is software that does the parsing for specific words that then prompts the google adwords banner to display something appropriate. It uses a similar method to google adwords that appear after you enter a search term on google. No human reads that, and I'm not too concerned.
Jun. 11th, 2004 07:32 pm (UTC)
If a little program targetted ads at you based on what it read you typing into browsers or what you had in your email, it would be called spyware and would be considered just about universally bad. But becuase a program that's giving you something you want in exchange is doing it (without the CPU impact I imagine) then that's fine.

It's really the privacy/ad infiltration thing that has me curious. I do a lot of work with UI, user perceptions, and some marketting sort of things. It's just flatly interesting to see that, while people want everything free, they don't want ads, but if you give them somehting they really like, they'll not only deal with the ads, but brag about the service to their friends.

Jun. 11th, 2004 08:08 pm (UTC)
I suspect that it's at least partly because they built this in right from the start. If yahoo mail or hotmail did it, you'd hear the screaming then, oh yes you would. People just kind of respect forthrightness. (Didn't I just post some comment in your journal a couple of weeks ago about Bush being similar, in that he campaigned on an "I'm going to ass-rape you, and then do your sister too" platform?)
Jun. 11th, 2004 11:17 pm (UTC)
When the topic of gmail first popped up on a friend's journal, the resulting discussion seemed to devolve into two camps: 1) people who think it's great that there's a halfway decent webmail thingie and 2) people who think "why the hell do I want a webmail thingie anyway?"

As I fall into the latter camp, the ad issue hasn't really bothered me, even though I know a lot of people are less than thrilled by it.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


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