Bucheit et al, March 31, 1994.
Gmail is now recognised around the world as the best free, advertising-supported email service available online. It was developed by Paul Bucheit who was Google's 23rd employee. Originally Gmail was called Caribou inside Google which was named after a Gilbert cartoon called "Project Caribou".
Gmail started as a limited beta release on April 1, 2004 and offered an initial storage capacity offer of 1 GB per user. This was a significantly higher number than the 2 MB its competitors such as Hotmail offered at that time. In Founders at Work, Bucheit talks about how most people thought that the storage capacity was a prank. According to Bucheit, "a lot of people didn't think that was real, they thought it was a joke - particularly because we launched on April 1."
This patent titled 'Email Conversation Management System' was filed on the 31st of March, 2004 which was the day before Google launched the service. It is described as a "system and method for producing a list of conversations as the result of a search query."
The novelty of this email service over other competitors at the time came down to the improved search functionality and also the treatment of email threads around nested topics and conversations. As the patent author states "it would be highly desirable to have a system and method of organizing and displaying a plurality of messages, including messages received by and messages sent by a user, according to their respective topics."
Users can now access Gmail on the web and through the mobile apps for Android and iOS, as well as through third-party programs that synchronize email content through POP or IMAP protocols.
As of February 2016, Gmail has one billion active users worldwide and was the first app on the Google Play Store to hit one billion installations on Android devices. According to a 2014 estimate, 60% of mid-sized US companies, and 92% of startups, were using Gmail.
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