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Thursday, April 08, 2004

GMail and Clutter: It's Fun to Complain in the Abstract

As every news editor on the planet assigns the GMail and Privacy Story to able reporters, the strain to find ordinary, average users who have "concerns" about the new product is starting to show.

You have to look hard to find someone who will say "4 MB is just fine for me thank you and I'm already sick of the clutter of all the advertising and won't they all just get off my back already!" as if it's a relevant statement in the context of GMail's offering. But apparently, getting "ordinary" people to spew a lot of illogical nonsense is not as hard as it looks.

People who like to get free stuff online have always been prone to logical fallacies. The clutter of four AdSense text ads is infinitesimal in comparison with that huge streaming ad for Vonage or Pepsi that shows up in my Yahoo box. So isn't GMail actually an improvement?

And for those who would like ad-free services, cool! I've always said that Yahoo's $60 service should be ad-free... or at least that there should be a $99 ad-free option. It comes down to dollars and cents, surely, not a congenital desire to bother people.

To make GMail ad-free, at 1 gigabyte of storage, I'm figuring based on past industry precedent "where that 4 MB email is just fine for most people," I'm thinking a fair fee would be $500/yr. Still interested?

Before we paint a picture of a populace up in arms and ready to storm the Googleplex, we need to be reminded that standard-issue marketplace freedom applies here. If you don't want the big juicy 1GB inbox, you don't have to use GMail. If there's any app that isn't currently subject to monopolistic, consumer-choice-limiting pressures, it's web-based mail.

So of course, as has happened before with services like Yahoo and Hotmail, those banner headlines claiming massive user discontent that seem to crop up at every hiccup will be overshadowed by the fact that tens of millions of people will make GMail a daily part of their lives. Actually using the product doesn't make for a very good sound bite, though, does it?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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