What’s in a name? Quite a lot it would appear, at least if you’re Google it’s quite a lot. Google launched its email system ‘Gmail’ many moons ago, and prompted Internet users to scramble to get their own firstname.lastname@example.org before they were snapped up.
Hotmail users, for many years, have had to settle for email addresses such as email@example.com because of the sheer volume of people who had already registered a hotmail address. Google however offered a blank slate (which meant your own name, possibly, without any numbers and random characters) together with a huge storage capacity (dwarfing the then capacity of hotmail) and a policy of ‘never deleting’ emails.
However, it wasn’t long before someone jumped on the bandwagon and claimed they’d had the idea first – at least for the name Gmail, and in the UK. Independent International Investment Research (very snappy) claimed in 2005 that they owned the rights to the name Gmail in the UK, prompting Google to rebrand its email system to Googlemail, but only in the UK. This meant longer email addresses, and addresses that weren’t as catchy as those being used elsewhere.
If you’d managed to get your Google email address before 2005 in the UK you would have had a gmail.com email address. If however you had waited, you’d have been stuck with googlemail.com. Now however, the name ‘Gmail’ is back and the dispute appears to be resolved (though whether any financial remuneration was forthcoming is unclear).
Greg Bullock wrote on the Gmail Blog:
“Since ‘gmail’ is 50% fewer characters than ‘googlemail’ we estimate this name change will save approximately 60 million keystrokes a day.”
Apparently people in the UK will be asked whether they want Gmail or Googlemail. Which would you prefer?