History of Gmail
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Gmail, known as Google Mail in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom, was made available to the public by Google on 1 April 2004, after extensive rumors of its existence during testing. Owing to the April Fool's Day release, the company's press release aroused skepticism in the technology world, especially since Google had been known to make April Fool's jokes in the past, such as PigeonRank. However, they explained that their real joke had been a press release saying that they would take offshoring to the extreme by putting employees in a "Google Copernicus Center" on the Moon. Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's vice-president of products, was quoted by BBC News as saying, "We are very serious about Gmail."
Gmail was a project started by Google developer Paul Buchheit several years before it was announced to the public. Initially the software was available only internally as an email client for Google employees.
The project initially was known by the code name Caribou, a reference to a Dilbert comic strip about Project Caribou.
Beta testing phase
Google initially invited about 1,000 employees, friends, and family members to become beta testers, with trials beginning on 21 March 2004. Active users from the Blogger.com community were offered the chance to participate in the beta-testing on 25 April and later, Gmail members occasionally received "invites" which they could extend to their friends. One round of invitations was sent out on 1 May and another three invitations were given to all active members on 1 June. By mid-June, the number of invitations had increased, with many users receiving between three and five daily. When Gmail increased the supply of invitations, the buying and selling market for Gmail invites collapsed. On 2 February 2005 the invitation interface was changed to make it easier to give invitations by simply entering an e-mail address. At approximately 3:00 UTC on 3 February 2005 some Gmail users were awarded 50 invitations and more recently, 100 invitations, suggesting that Gmail would soon go public. Attending a Google Mini webinar or using Google Mobile would also yield a Gmail invitation.
During the initial months of the initial beta phase, Gmail's well-publicized feature set and the exclusive nature of the accounts caused the aftermarket price of Gmail invitations to skyrocket. According to PC World magazine, Gmail invitations were selling on eBay for as much as US$150, with some specific accounts being sold for several thousand dollars. After a new round of invitations in early June, the price for invitations fell down to between US$2-$5. Several philanthropic Gmail users have utilized services such as the now defunct GmailSwap to donate invitations to people who want them. On 28 June 2004, Google amended its policy to forbid the selling of registered accounts.
- March 2004
- Google said that Gmail would probably be released publicly after six months of testing, which would have placed their launch in September 2004. Speculation regarding the release date followed a The New York Times indication that they had "credible sources" saying "Gmail will be released publicly by the end of the year 2005." Until July 2009 however, the site remained in beta development stage. The number of invitations existing account holders can send has been varied, presumably to control the usage and growth of the system. The use of the invitation/text message system helped prevent spammers from registering numerous accounts for purposes of spamming and ensured that any account used illegally would have the invitation e-mail address or phone number to trace a user back to.
- January 2005
- Security experts discovered a critical flaw in the handling of Gmail messages that would allow hackers to easily access private e-mails from any Gmail user's account. This was posted with detailed information to popular technology site Slashdot at 9:23 a.m. PST on 12 January 2005. At roughly 10:15 a.m. PST on 13 January 2005, developers at Gmail announced that they had fixed the problem and that the security flaw had been patched. Despite Gmail's status as a beta application, this raised concerns among some users who use Gmail as their primary mail account.
- 1 April 2005
- Exactly one year after the initial release, Gmail increased the mailbox size to 2 GB, advertising it as 2GB plus and introduced some other new features, including formatted editing which gave users the option of sending messages in HTML or plain text.
- 13 April 2005
- Gmail became available in several languages: British English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and simplified and traditional Chinese.
- 7 June 2005
- The Gmail Invitation Spooler was deactivated by the site owner, following a direct request from the Gmail product manager to shut it down. The service was featured in Popular Science magazine and had given out over 1.2 million Gmail accounts.
- 30 June 2005
- Gmail became available in 4 new languages: Danish, Finnish, Polish and Swedish.
- 11 July 2005
- On this date or more likely earlier, Google gave away free Gmail accounts to random people who searched for the word "gmail" using the Google search engine. A promotion link would appear at the top of the page displaying "New! Get Gmail - Google's free e-mail service with over 2GB of storage." This has since expired.
- August 2005
- Gmail started offering 100 invitations to some users.
- 9 August 2005
- Gmail became available in 12 new languages: Bulgarian, Croatian, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Latvian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.
- 24 August 2005
- Google offered a new method of signing up for a Gmail account via mobile phone text messaging. The public was able to obtain an account by submitting a U.S. mobile phone number to Google, who would then send a text message with an invitation code that would be used to create a Gmail account. Numbers were stored in order to keep track of the number of accounts created which was limited to ten per phone number. This method of creating accounts makes it difficult for spammers to send out spam messages, getting spam delivered, or obtaining an account thus keeping Gmail as spam-free as possible. This method is currently available only to people with a U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand or Turkish mobile phone number.
- 30 August 2005
- Gmail started to add the ability to customize the address that messages are sent from on outgoing mail, to some accounts. This adds the option for outgoing messages to appear as if they had been sent from an alternative e-mail address, rather than from the Gmail account. At present this option is available only for accounts that have set English (US) as Gmail display language, but users can switch to another language and keep using this feature after adding another address.
- September 2005
- In the beginning of September 2005, Gmail became available in 9 new languages: Catalan, Czech, Estonian, Hindi, Lithuanian, Romanian, Tagalog, Thai and Turkish.
- October 2005
- Gmail withdrew the use of firstname.lastname@example.org within the UK due to a dispute with the UK company Independent International Investment Research (IIIR), who own the gmail.co.uk domain. From 19 October 2005 any new UK users signing up were compelled to have email@example.com. There is still a concern that old UK users will also have to change to the new domain sometime in the future.
- December 2005
- Gmail added a "Vacation responder" feature, to provide automatic response to e-mails and also a "Contact Groups" feature, allowing e-mail to be sent to a number of contacts, in a user-defined group.
- 16 December 2005
- Google quietly released a version of Gmail for mobile devices, providing phone interface access through http://m.gmail.com, named "Gmail Mobile". This product competes with and has features similar to an open source version of Gmail Mobile 1.0 which was launched just 3 weeks earlier by the SourceForge community.
- 17 January 2006
- Gmail added a delete button to the menu bar. This now allows users to easily delete their messages.
- 7 February 2006
- Gmail added the ability for users to chat with others on their contact list when logged into their account. Users have the option to save their chats in a Chat History.
- 10 February 2006
- Google introduced Gmail for Your Domain. This service, currently in beta testing, allows organizations to offer e-mail services through Gmail using their own domain. San Jose City College is one of the organizations currently using this service.
- May 2006
- From the end of May 2006, Gmail started to support Arabic and Hebrew, which requires support for bi-directional text.
- November 2006
- It became impossible to use Gmail's full version with browsers using an earlier version of the Gecko than 1.7.x. These previously hung up unless their UA string was modified to something older. This affected Mozilla 1.6, K-Meleon 0.8.2 and lower versions; Therefore Mozilla 1.7.x, Mozilla Firefox 1.x or K-Meleon 0.9 could be used instead.
- 2 November 2006
- Google began offering a mobile-application based version of its Gmail product for mobile phones capable of running Java applications . In addition, Sprint announced separately that it would make the application available from its Vision and Power Vision homepages, preloaded onto some new Sprint phones. The application gives Gmail its own custom menu system and the site displays attachments, such as photos and documents in the application.
- 28 January 2007
- Google Docs & Spreadsheets was integrated with Gmail, providing the capability to open attached Microsoft Word DOC files directly from Gmail. 
- 8 February 2007
- Gmail registration was opened to the public, however remains in beta.
- 24 October 2007
- Google announced that IMAP was available for all accounts, including Google Apps for your Domain.
- 5 June 2008
- Introduced Gmail Labs
- 19 November 2008
- Themes added.
- 8 December 2008
- Google added a to-do list to Gmail. When the new Tasks feature is enabled, a box shows up on top of the Gmail window. In it, users can add, reorder and delete tasks. It is also possible to assign a due date to each action and even convert e-mails into tasks.
- 27 January 2009
- Offline support via Google Gears
- 24 February 2009
- Gmail suffered a two and a half hour outage, affecting 100 million accounts.
- 7 July 2009
- Gmail completed its beta status in a move to attract more business use of the service.
- 1 Sept 2009
- Gmail service was interrupted for several hours 
Name change in Germany and in the UK
Gmail in Germany
The German version of Gmail was first named Gmail Deutschland. Unfortunately for Google, the German company Giersch Ventures had already trademarked G-mail in 2001. The company later filed a lawsuit against Google for trademark infringement.
On 4 July 2005 Google announced that Gmail Deutschland would be rebranded Google Mail. From that point forward, visitors originating from a German IP address were forwarded to googlemail.com where they could obtain an email address containing the new domain. German users who were already registered were allowed to keep their old addresses. Despite this limitation, German users can still receive email at their corresponding address containing the gmail.com domain. In many respects, the googlemail.com address is simply an alias. German users can have their mail sent to gmail.com by simply changing their reply-to address.
The Giersch Ventures lawsuit also forced Google to change the site's URL from gmail.google.com to mail.google.com, which briefly broke some applications and plugins that relied on this address to access the mail service.