The Genius of Gmail

November 19th, 2004 | by ian |

Gmail: The stickiest of Google’s many substances? (updated)

Gmail is a truly innovative webmail service. The interface is incredibly fast and clean, mail is usefully sorted into threads, the targeted ads are inobtrusive, and the features are second to none. I should mention they are in beta now so you need to be invited to join.

I recently figured out that while Gmail normally only secures the webmail login if you start at t: your entire webmail session will remain encrypted! I would be more impressed if they enforced this level of security by default but I can live with this.

Google has a flexible API that has generated a lot of developer activity creating extensions and tools. My favorite is the Gmail drive allowing you to mount your 1Gig email account as a removable hard drive. Back up files to it, share files with friends, access it from anywhere!

Amazingly, encryption via SSL/TLS is part of the API and the many plug-ins are ensured secure transfer of data between Gmail servers and your computer.

Recently Google has enabled both POP access and mail forwarding:

They actually use SSL/TLS to encrypt POP and SMTP traffic!

Incoming Mail (POP3) Server – requires SSL:
Use SSL: Yes
Port: 995
Outgoing Mail (SMTP) Server – requires TLS: (use authentication)
Use Authentication: Yes
Use STARTTLS: Yes (some clients call this SSL)
Port: 465 or 587

This is a feature that I often can’t get on paid e-mail services and finally allows for privacy in what I consider the least secure part of the e-mail process, the last mile traversed by my e-mail.

A lot of people have voiced privacy concerns with Gmail and on this topic I find myself agreeing with O’Reillyonce again. I tend to be very concerned with information privacy but I’m not opposed to a computer is scanning my mail (especially for spam and viruses) as long as only the computer reads it. My biggest privacy concern is always the personal computer I use to access it and the internet connection I use to download it. Thanks to Gmail, data is encrypted in transit and someone is going to have to do better than simply wiretap my internet connection to get my data.

At the end of the day Gmail is the best all-round free e-mail service I have used, and probably will use for the forseeable future. What sells most people is the speed and elegance of the user interface. What sold me is the rare emphasis on security in their product.

Update! 02/13/2006

Sure enough the controversy around Gmail dropped below a dull roar when people started experiencing its amazing performance and flexibility. Someone even described how to us Gmail as a CRM.

New features include:
Support for multiple e-mail addresses or identities called “accounts”
Increased storage space
RSS and Chat (presence awareness)
Automated response

Coming soon:
Host your domain’s e-mail with Google’s Gmail

  1. One Response to “The Genius of Gmail”

  2. By Anonymous on Nov 21, 2004 | Reply

    Gmail stinks with Safari. Links you click on open 3 new windows, and a modal dialog box. Thanks so much for posting that they’re encrypting their data, now I can have my mail client get mail.

    Its not clear how they’re going to advertise to me…fake messages in my inbox? Ads appended to my friends’ mail? Maybe they figure we’re the fringe, and everyone else will keep using the web?

    PS: More on google at

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