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by Kenneth Lyen

It happened recently. I was selected to start a Gmail account. Whoopeee! What an exhilarating feeling. One gigabyte (GB) of storage. "What does 1 GB of e-mail mean?", I asked my friend who invited me to start the account. He replied, "It means you can e-mail to your heart’s content".

What a remarkably clever marketing strategy on the part of Google. They released the beta version of their Gmail to a select few. Then they restrict ownership to the privileged few who are invited to join. This causes a relative scarcity of Gmail accounts, and makes it all the more highly sought after. Indeed the demand is so great that Gmail is auctioned on eBay, the internet auction house.

Do I need 1 GB storage? Yes quite definitely. I am currently writing musicals. When I complete a song, I send it to my arranger who sends the songs back to me as MP3 files. Each song takes up 3-5 MB space. In the past, I have to keep on clearing my web e-mail in order to free up space for more songs to be sent. Furthermore, I have some international collaborators. Sending or receiving big files is virtually impossible with my current Hotmail (2 MB) account, and difficult with my Singnet (20 MB) account. Thus the ability to send and store big files quickly has been a tremendous boon to my musical collaboration.

There are several other features of Gmail that I love. E-mail on the same topics are filed together, individual e-mail can be labelled for easy sorting, the first line of the contents are displayed, e-mail addresses are saved automatically and pop-up when you need them, sent messages are stored, and the keyboard keystrokes are a breeze to use.

Are there any disadvantages with Gmail? Sure. You sacrifice your privacy. Google searches through your email and when it detects certain keywords, a related advertisement appears. Initially I found this disconcerting. I was writing to a friend about a camera, when suddenly, several photography related advertisements appeared on the right of my screen. It was rather spooky, and I felt I was being watched. But after a while I got used to it. I’ve also gotten used to the fact that my e-mail is "spied" upon. I’m now a bit more careful, and just won’t divulge anything embarrassing in my e-mail.

Another disadvantage is that you cannot save draft copies of your half-completed e-mail. However this does not bother me, as I can easily overcome the problem by sending the incomplete letter to myself. You cannot download and clear your e-mail from storage. Actually this is no longer true. There is a programme that allows you to empty your Gmail storage onto your computer hard disc.

On the positive side, the entry of Gmail into the e-mail market has sparked off a cyber war. Yahoo increased their offering from 6 MB to 100 MB. Hotmail are planning to increase theirs from a measly 2 MB to a more decent 250 MB. Hence you do not need to switch to Gmail, especially if you are worried about your loss of privacy.

As for me, I am ecstatic with Gmail. It is beautifully designed, intuitive, easy to navigate, and has all the features that I like about e-mail. Sometimes it almost feels like a superior form of internet chatting. So two thumbs up for Google. But I'm still not satisfied. I've become an e-mail storage junkie. With 1 GB storage space, I'm on a high. I’m swimming in a bottomless ocean of e-mail. I just hope there aren't too many sharks about!