first major expansion beyond its core
business, Internet search leader Google said
Wednesday it will soon offer a free, Web-based
as it's called, will compete with e-mail
offerings from Yahoo, Microsoft and others and
move Mountain View-based Google closer to being
a Web portal offering a wide variety of
Larry Page, Google's president of products,
stressed Gmail's search function, which will
allow users to instantly find e-mail messages
with the same type of technology that powers the
company's Web site searches.
able to search e-mail quickly and easily is an
important thing,'' said Page, who has used the
service for his personal e-mail for months.
will begin testing Gmail among a small group
of users this week, Page said. The service will
be available to the general public ``in the
coming weeks,'' a spokesman said.
will come with one gigabyte of storage,
enough to store 500,000 pages of e-mail and
hundreds of times larger than what other free
e-mail services provide.
most controversial aspect of the service
will likely be the small text ads that Google
will automatically place in every e-mail
message. Powered by the company's AdSense
program, the ads will be contextual, meaning
they will relate to keywords in the e-mail.
e-mail message about the movie ``Finding
Nemo,'' for example, might elicit ads from
Disney Studios or Amazon.com, which sells the
DVD version of the movie.
technology requires that Google computers scan
and index the content of each e-mail message,
which could alienate people concerned about
people will say, `Hey, stay out of my e-mail,'
'' said Gary Stein, analyst for Jupiter
Research. ``But it might also mean that two
people are trading messages about mountain bike
riding, and they get useful ads related to
spokesman David Krane said ``machines, not
humans,'' will scan e-mail messages for ad
placement, and the company is not worried about
don't see it as a problem,'' Krane said.
e-mail service extends Google's ability to
make money off advertisers without relying on
loud or intrusive banner ads that are common on
other parts of the Web.
also moves Google -- widely expected to
become a public company this year -- into a big
and growing business. Nearly 150 million people
in the United States have Web-based e-mail
accounts through the three biggest providers --
Yahoo, Microsoft's Hotmail and AOL.
a good way for us to make money and it's also
un-intrusive,'' Page said. ``The clicks that
this generates will be good eventually for
said an e-mail service -- long-rumored in
technology circles -- was a logical move for
Google, which may be feeling pressure to expand
its offerings beyond Web search. Apart from a
social networking service that it recently
started testing called Orkut, Google is viewed
primarily as a search engine.
feeling, the sense, the common thinking is that
they have to do more than search,'' Stein said.
``The peril is they lose their uniqueness and
become more like a portal. Google is sort of a
unique thing in the world.''
eschewed the comparison to a Web portal,
saying that a searchable e-mail product is a
natural extension of the company's longstanding
mission to ``organize the world's information.''
product fits pretty squarely into that
mission,'' Page said. ``It's very similar (to a
search engine) in that it's a large, hosted
business that requires a lot of servers.''
its Web search, Google tried to build a product
that is fast, simple and easy to use.
been a lot of pains taken to make it work
quickly,'' Page said.
demonstration shown to the Mercury News
appeared similar to a stripped-down version of
other Web mail programs, with spam, sent-mail
and other folders in the left-hand column.
Google has added a search box -- for either
e-mail or the Web -- to the top of the screen.
And the service will automatically thread
together related messages so users can more
easily follow their e-mail conversations. Text
ads hug the right side of each message page,
similar to the ad placement in search results on
the Google Web site.
will also provide spam-filtering and a basic
address book that automatically fills itself
with e-mail addresses from messages.
said the service will work with Mozilla and
Internet Explorer Web browsers on Windows,
Macintosh and Linux machines.
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