The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Thoughts about Gmail

I have a Gmail account (—okay Google, let's test your anti-spam measures) and I've been playing around with it today. For a web application it's pretty slick. Instead of placing email within folders, you instead can add labels to each email. So I can create a label called “Friends” and tag email from my friends with it. So far, not much different than folders, but the kicker is that you can attach multiple labels to each email. So for instance, I can create another label “Mississippabamasisboombah” and if I were to receive email from Hoade, I can label it with both “Friends” and “Mississippabamasisboombah.” The interface to create labels and tag emails is easy.

It also seems to automatically apply labels to incoming email, probably based upon the content of emails already labeled. Email I received from my friend Ken Maier (whom I gave an invite to) was automatically labeled. Both slick and scary at the same time if you ask me, especially since I have privacy concerns about Gmail.

No conversations in the trash. Who needs delete when you have 1000 MB of storage?!

Gmail trash filter

There also doesn't seem to be a way to export your email from Gmail. Granted, you have a gigabyte of storage and I'm sure that given their Google File System loosing data isn't that much of a concern, but still, I would like a local copy of my email just the same, thank you very much. Ken did send me a link to this tool that will supposedly download email stored at Gmail, but I think it may fall foul of Gmail's Terms of Use:

5. Intellectual Property Rights. Google's Intellectual Property Rights. You acknowledge that Google owns all right, title and interest in and to the Service, including without limitation all intellectual property rights (the “Google Rights”), and such Google Rights are protected by U.S. and international intellectual property laws. Accordingly, you agree that you will not copy, reproduce, alter, modify, or create derivative works from the Service. You also agree that you will not use any robot, spider, other automated device, or manual process to monitor or copy any content from the Service. The Google Rights include rights to (i) the Service developed and provided by Google; and (ii) all software associated with the Service. The Google Rights do not include third-party content used as part of Service, including the content of communications appearing on the Service.

Gmail's Terms of Use (emphasis added)

That bit about “manual process to monitor or copy any content” is a bit worrying too; if I bounce forward (Gmail seems to lack a “bounce” feature, which sucks as I use that quite often) all my email would that fall under the “manual process to copy any content?” Even if it's my own content? Remember, “Google reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time without notice for any reason.” Fall foul of Google, and poof there goes your access to your email.

I think Spring has the right idea for Gmail—she uses it for her mailing lists; since it goes out to multiple recipients it's not exactly private and most mailing lists keep an archive anyway so loss of use of Gmail isn't that bad; it's only bad if Gmail is your primary source of email.

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