Gmail cool but a little spooky


Here's why. I love Gmail. I think it's the best free email service yet. I love the fast javascript, the 1GB of storage, the search functionality, the POP access, the photo thumbnails and the message threading. It's very well designed, fast and easy to use. What gives me pause are all those Gmail accounts being scanned by the Google machine so users can be served up more and more finely tuned advertisements.

One company with such a profound understanding of information flow, aggregate or not, is a little scary to me. Google will essentially know what we search for, what we write about and what we email each other. Google's argument is everyone benefits from aggregate data being collected and subsequent advertisements being served up. Google uses terms like 'relevant' to make the advertisements sound less intrusive. The truth is nothing is free and it never has been. If you want to pimp out your information habits to Google for free email more power to you.

Google has been creating a buzz about its Gmail service by keeping it in a perpetual beta phase. You can't just go to Google and sign up. You have to be invited. The idea being an invite seems so much more special than an offer. For example, NetFlix would seem so much cooler if they didn't beg you to sign up for $17.99 in an effort to grow before they get gobbled up by Blockbuster or run out of business. Imagine if another NetFlix customer had to invite you to join. All of a sudden it's a more intriguing deal.

Gmail is email. Yeah it's a better free email service. However, I prefer to import my data into my own database, like AskSam. I don't like the idea of keeping 1GB worth of emails on someone else's servers. That's many years worth of correspondence essentially under someone else's control. If Google does get fat and lazy its aggregate data and email account information may be no more secure than a Choice Point customer file.

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