Thursday, April 29, 2004

Since I'm an "active" Blogger user (about the only time you can refer to me as being "active" in anything), I've gotten to be part of the initial beta test of Gmail. No one knows what constitutes "active" since according to a recent Assdot discussion some people who 'blog a decent amount haven't gotten the invite while those who have been less than active have. My guess is that "active" is Blogger code for "random." All I know is that I had BETTER be considered a fucking active Blogger user, even during slow weeks like this one. Anyway, I've been rolling with GMail for a little over a week, and thus far, I'd have to say that it's pretty decent. Not the end-all, be-all of e-mail services, but not too shabby.

There's been a big shitstorm over the fact that GMail scans your messages and displays text ads based on the content of your message. I can see where this would bother some people, but it's not like it really matters. I mean, what are you doing that's so fucking important that you need to keep it a secret? Get over yourself. In all seriousness, I can understand that. Privacy is just a fundamental right that we have in this country (in essence). The thing is, it's not like a human being at Google has been assigned to read my mail and create ads. It's all done automatically, and it's not the first time we've had something that scans our mail - spam filters, for instance. So for me, the privacy thing wasn't a huge deal. Sure, it bugged me a bit since I'm a ninny like that, but I got over it. Besides, I'd have to laugh if anyone was taking the time to read my mail - it's not like there's anything very interesting going on in there since it's, well, me. For anyone who's all that worried about it, hey, just don't use it.

GMail supposedly has some sophisticated spam filtering capabilities, but from what I've seen, that's a bunch of shit. Sure, it can filter some spam, but it also does a nice job of marking legitimate messages as spam. I've had a decent amount of real messages - at least on a relative scale, seeing as how I get so few legitimate e-mails since no one cares about me (and rightly so) - sent to the spam bin This false marking of spam even included a message from my mother, who I can assure you is not a spammer. Of course, there have also been plenty of spams that have made it into my inbox that should have gone right to the spam bin. I understand that this is just the nature of spam filtering; there are always going to be false positives and false negatives when something like this is done algorithmically. Basically, if anyone ever says that they have some great spam filters, they're full of shit. Unless, of course, if a real human is actually reading your mail. It'd definitely be nice if GMail had some way for users to have some control over the automatic spam filtering (in addition to the custom filters you can set up).

The other big deal with GMail is that you get 1 GB of storage space. That's pretty neat; I just wonder how exactly they're managing all that since I'm a dork. Still, just so long as it works. The notion behind this is that you never have to delete mail, which is nice. For fun, I've even been keeping my spams around - just so that I can see them piling up, and also for statistical purposes (looks like I'm averaging about 100 spams a day).

Another nice thing is the ability to give messages a label. There's a list of labels on the sidebar, and whenever I want to see the messages grouped into one label I just have to click that to see a list. This in many ways is about as close as you'll get to folders of some kind to help sort messages. Messages can be archived, which means they're removed from your inbox but still show up in an "all mail" listing and are also searchable. It would be nice if GMail didn't totally shun the folder idea and at least have a separate bin for archive-only mail. Speaking of search, thus far I haven't used the search facilities, mainly since pretty much all the messages I would have to search through are still on one bloody screen. I'm sure search will be decent since it's based on Google's normal web search.

Another big concern that people have is that while GMail is starting off free, they may end up charging for it someday. This is a legitimate concern as it has happened with other e-mail services, and I'm pretty sure that Google even said somewhere in their initial info on GMail that the service would always be free or come at the cost of a "nominal fee." So yeah, they're probably going to charge for it someday.

All in all, it's not bad. Like I said, it doesn't have me dancing in the streets, but it is nice to have a web-based account that I can forward my main mail account to where I don't have to worry about storage space and whatnot. It's not the best, but I'm liking it way more than MSN's CrotchMail. Yes, that's the best I could come up with for something that sounded remotely like "Hot."

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