It’s hard to imagine that I’ve been using Gmail (Google Mail) for over a decade. Has it been that long already?
Gmail launched officially on April 1, 2004 (funny how it was April Fool’s Day…) and went into private Beta. For a time, this was the hottest thing that was circulating at the time and to get an invite was super-rare.
I was lucky and had a friend find entrance and he shot me over an invite as soon as he could and I joined on June 23rd, 2004, just two months post-launch. It would take nearly 3 more years for it to become publicly available (that’s a long “Closed Beta”…).
It was such a hot item that you could even sell your invites on Ebay (which I did) and I also grabbed a ton of rare names, including email@example.com which I eventually gave to my mom (she’s got the best one ever!).
And it’s been an uncompromisable part of my daily life – if not Google Mail then what else? At the time I was using Lycos and really did love that service – I think their user experience and user interface was nice and pleasant and the workflow just “worked” and it was relatively fast.
But Gmail opened my eyes to what speed in a web-based email could really be and I was hooked, not because it was the nicest to look at but because it was the fastest.
And overtime the product got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. People began to create themes and alternative designs and extensions that would change the product almost altogether. And then you could use the product for your own business (Google Apps) and get branded-email for any sized organization.
Hooked, is one word to describe my relationship with Gmail, and I’ve tried them all (quite literally). I have loved using it and cannot imagine using any other service, even despite my growing concerns of privacy and data.
But email is noisy and busy and still more complex than it needs to be. I’ve had so many different email accounts over the years and have been a part of so many different organizations, including my own indie projects and apps.
For each one they had custom-branded domains and for years I’ve used “firstname.lastname@example.org” as my go-to email address. And for a time, this felt good and appropriate and was “cool,” if you catch my drift.
But I’m honestly tired of multiple handles and I’ve decided to use my original gmail address that I created over 11 years ago as my one email address. I will still have forwarding for a number of addresses but I’ll send only from one.
This might not seem like a big deal to many but it is to me, especially considering the complex email structures that I’ve put into place over time (and it’s too complex to write out here… and it’s boring…). But the reality is that I’m just tired of managing it all and I’d rather just have one and be done with it.
And psychologically it’s just as big of a deal as well. To a certain degree I think of it like how the “.com” domain name was the domain name that you had to have if you were legit. Now, no one thinks much of you don’t have a “.com” and no one cares as much about things like SEO as it relates to those things (or at least I don’t).
So now, it’s just a URL. And to me, my email address is just my email address. Telling someone that they should email me at email@example.com instead of some supposed swanky custom domain is just not at “thing” anymore. Well, at least not to me.
Email is email. There are some applications and products (a’la Slack) that are really trying to kill email and replace it entirely. They are doing a really good job of it but until Slack is globally adopted it’s just not going to happen.
I imagine I’ll die still using email as a major form of digital communication. I’d love to be wrong though.
[Oh, and if you’re interested in finding when you first started using Gmail, you can just put in this URL: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#all/p1000000]