Gmail places new security measures on 20th anniversary

Over 82 percent of India-based emailers use Gmail – nine languages. Like Indonesia, this is the highest percentage in the world – while US usage is less than 42 percent.

The Gmail logo has evolved over the years / Gmail

When Google first announced the launch of its free email service, Gmail, on Apr. 1, 2004, many thought it was an April Fool’s Day prank: a search engine offering to help send email? How bizarre!

But it was no joke, and millions opened personal Gmail accounts enticed by the huge amount of storage offered – 1000 Megabytes (MB) or 1 Gigabyte (GB), compared to what a competitor like Microsoft’s Hotmail was offering then—2 MB.

Today, Gmail has 1.2 billion users worldwide, serving 22 percent of the world’s population -- and in some countries, it is by far the dominant email client in use. Like India. And Indonesia.

In these two nations, according to World Population Review, Gmail’s share of email users is 82.4 percent and 82.6 percent respectively, the highest in the world. In comparison, the US does not make even the top ten of users, with a market share of 41.9 percent. Apple’s mail client dominates the American market. In the UK, Gmail has a 30 percent share.

Its dominance in India is due in no small measure to Google’s canny appreciation of the role local languages play: Today in addition to English, Gmail offers versions in 9 languages: Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu– the widest range of languages for any one country.

User hunger for mailing images and video has far outstripped that initial largesse of 1 GB storage – and Gmail, which today offers 15 GB across Gmail, Photos, and Google Drive (combined), is less generous than Microsoft that offers Outlook users 15 GB plus 5GB for OneDrive. Both these email clients have been blown away, storage-wise at least by Yahoo mail, which today offers 1 terabyte (TB) or 1000 GB of storage.

Neil Kumaran, Lead Product Manager for Gmail at Google / Linkedin

Heightened security instituted

On its 20th birthday, Gmail is playing it relatively low key and has marked the occasion by announcing new security rules which aim to address account holders’ travails with unsolicited commercial emails, increasing levels of spam, and malicious, scam-tainted messaging.

Gmail has put in place new rules to regulate bulk mail senders -- that is, those who send 5000 messages or more in one go, even those who try to camouflage their action by sending from multiple subdomains. Heightened levels of authentication have been instituted.

Gmail’s group product manager, San Francisco Bay-area based Neil Kumaran, who has been with Google for just under 10 years and who led the teams responsible for Enterprise, Security, and Trust & Safety across Gmail and Chat, is quoted by Forbes saying these new measures will validate that the messages are originating from the source as claimed and will help eliminate loopholes that attackers use to threaten everyone who uses email.

Coming on the eve of the General Elections, the world’s largest electoral exercise, these measures will be seen to be very timely for India.

In other ways too, India looms front and center for Google and Gmail. Karan Bhatia, Google’s Washington DC-based global head of government affairs and public policy, told PTI last year: "India is one of our most important markets around the world. It's really a second home to us. We've been in the country for almost two decades now. We have thousands of employees there. It is both a source of incredible talent and innovation that really helps create and empower Google products around the world."