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Google President and co-founder Sergey Brin told the Journal his company will not make any "rash changes" to the e-mail service which is still being tested by thousands of users.
But he also said the idea of letting Gmail users opt in or out of the targeted ad service was an idea that "is being batted about. We certainly wouldn't rule it out," the Journal said.
I realize that this is obviously speculation on our part, but what sort of changes do you think Google is apt to consider? I'm not talking what you'd personally LIKE them to do ("Erase all the ads and keep it 100% free!" or "Just change the font, but leave the rest the same!"), but rather -- from a logical and pragmatic perspective, what changes you think Google might be "batting about."
Initially, I thought that perhaps Google'd offer a choice of free (with ads) and paid (no ads) models. But then I realized that this would not ameliorate the concerns of people who are loathe to have their e-mail stored in a Gmail account of any sort, paid or free (and folks sending mail wouldn't know the difference up front anyway). So, IMHO, that doesn't seem like a viable option.
[edited by: Brett_Tabke at 8:33 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]
[edit reason] Updated link : this story was submitted over 12 times today [/edit]
[GMAILBOT ARCHIVE=NO ADS=NO]
... which would ban the gmailbot from showing ads based on our content and from archiving the content, then that would be a big plus and something they should really consider doinging. That way if our content is forwarded onto other users and eventually ends up in a gmail account, google will at least recognize the original author did not want his/her content monetized or archived without their permission.
I would have no problem and would trust google if they gave me their word they would not use my content without my consent. Otherwise I WILL be blocking gmail users from sending me mail and will not be sending any to them.
i have absolutely no problem with the adverts - but its lack of certainty that when i delete a mail it is actually deleted, that is the major privacy issue. That's why certain companies have already put measures in place to block all mail from gmail.
Value lost to G -> data-mining opportunities. Anything else?
Give e-mail publishers a tag as was already suggested to opt out of having keyword ads published or permanent storage of their message.
Value lost to G -> perhaps many will opt out often, and so low revenue. Anything else?
Make the only paid option ad-free browsing.
There ya have it. A Gmail I'd use.
And if you are king of search, that means that archiving deleted mails becomes a big problem in the eyes of certain companies, and individual users.
It's a kind of catch-22 situation.
Secondly, the hiring of people associated with the U.S. national security bureaucracies also raises a few alarm bells. Because of the TOS of this board, i cannot give out search terms for you to find this info, but i'm sure you'll find it out yourself if you dig around.
If we could write some line of text in all mail sent to gmail users like:
[GMAILBOT ARCHIVE=NO ADS=NO]
This would alleviate my major concerns... I realise it's getting a little technical in nature for the average user, but it certainly would make me feel a whole lot better about things.
The content of the email might well be Finance still, but Google doesn't have to scan it so there'd be no problems with privacy. The sender should be able to determine whether Google can scan it. This shouldn't be that much of a problem with alot of banking/website systems as they need to modify a little code.
The main page could also have a little marker, which is marked before you view the message. If this is marked, the message is not scanned. Any user with privacy concerns marks relevant messages, and Google gives relevant Adwords on some random topic maybe, or even some of the messages you've allowed Google to scan.
I very much doubt Google will remove Adwords altogether, it's they're main topic and source of income. Giving the sender and reciever choice on what can be scanned and not is the way forward IMO :)
- When did it get out of alpha? ;)
Anyway ... Google need to do something, or Gmail will damage their reputation considerably.
The issue has gone mainstream, even the BBC ran a report on Gmail this evening ... they were focussing on reports of Google invading privacy by scanning personal messages.
If there's a single cell of common sense among all the big brains at the Googleplex they will pull Gmail as it is now. Offer a free, ad-supported version to those who want more space and less privacy or a smaller and less feature complete version to those who like their privacy.
But if they go the route of ad-supported or free accounts, how do they propose getting around the issue of a privacy conscious person (non-Gmail supporting) trying to contact another person via their ad-supported and therefore less private Gmail address? Free to free or ad-supported to ad-supported only? It soon gets very complicated.
What's wrong with focussing on search anyway? Do they not want to be the best SE anymore? I know that email is the "killer app", but I hope Google aren't taking it too literally!
Further, everyone knows that all you get in free email is:
33% Email forwards from boring colleagues, friends & relatives
37% Pictures of naked women (or worse, naked men).
And anyway you should have more sense that using any free email account for anything confidential or private, and anything other than what is mentioned above.
And if you happen to be one of those highly intelligent people that are sending sensitive data to Yahoo, Hotmail or Gmail, then, may your barber give you a haircut like Bill Gates.
And And And, if you are a very important person, then please get off your ass and spend $9.99 on a paid, private & secure email account!
I would also like to propose Brett Takbe for "sensational headlines of the year award". You sure beat hollow those cheap tabloid writers.
[edited by: Namaste at 7:41 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]
...but I can't imagine them being party to a massive privacy invasion, e.g., humans rooting through your old stuff.
As I tried to point out in one of these other Gmail threads, Google is very good at electronic searching. Humans don't have to root through your old stuff for there to be a privacy issue...
The issue of privacy comes up just because that information is archived. As long as it's possible for personal information to be used in unexpected ways, it's a problem if large repositories of it are maintained. What're they going to do with it? Who else can get it? How long will they keep it? Why won't they let me delete it?*
If Google really intends to archive all of the Gmail messages on their servers, they're going to have to make it absolutely clear what that information will be used for and how, who's going to use it and for how long.**
On the other hand, I don't really object to their serving me ads beside the messages (it'd probably be nicer to have a slightly relevant text ad than it is to have those awful, irrelevant, low quality gif and flash ads that Yahoo serves).
*Would you let Microsoft, Ford, GE or the tax man keep all of your emails forever? I know, Google is Google, not any of these, but what is the salient difference? We already know that a number of airlines have recently turned over passenger records the the US government without permission - simply because their privacy guidelines did not (at the time) expressly prohibit it; and passenger records don't really provide much information compared to email.
**I must say that, from reading the privacy part of the gmail site, the 'email non-deletion' issue seems more like a legal manouver to get them out of wiping every hard disk, tape or other backup that ever had any trace of your messages on it, no matter how small...but they'd better make it clearer than they have so far.
I'll just repeat a message that I posted a few days earlier and that still applies:
I know they'd be happy to hear constructive feedback about any issue, from something privacy-related to feedback or feature requests."
So just like with any other beta (e.g. Google News), the service will get better as people suggest different features, different ways to make the wordings more clear, different UI changes, and different ways to make Gmail more appealing to anyone that wants to use web mail.
Who, really, doesn't care about a damn bit about all of this and just wants their free email service.
I disagree I asked my "in-house average user teenage son" to read the article on the gmail privacy issues and concerns. His opinion was "No Way" he would not be signing up for the free service. It pays to educate the average user. Now he is telling his friends (word of mouth the best or worst form of advertising).
Who doesn't have money and is probably not the target demographic for most web-based advertising.
Don't get me wrong - I don't like the idea either. But, from a business perspective, what Google doing here is sound. Very sound.
I wish I would have thought of it myself.
Beta test stages are not about making fundamental changes. Beta begins with B for Bug hunt - that is what the majority of them are about. Beta is about bugs - it is alpha that is about bench testing ideas.
note: this story was submitted 12 times to the forums today and we just picked the most neutral one, but the original zdnet link was bad.
<added>ThatAdamGuy, I assumed that you were a guy. :) I know it's not always safe to make assumptions about the gender from a nickname. :)</added>
Would you rather them be like Yahoo and Microsoft and just SHOVE their products down your throat without asking?
I hope they stay at the forefont of this field because at least I know we as webmasters will always have some input and a voice. The alternatives scare me.
[edited by: contentsiteguy at 12:13 am (utc) on April 15, 2004]
I think you hit the nail on the head, ThatAdamGuy. If you can find the original Wall Street Journal article, I think Sergey Brin was quoted as saying something relatively similar.
I trust Brett (and the other moderators) to call 'em the way they see 'em. Most Google releases or betas are open to the public, which gives everyone a chance to try it for themselves. I think when people get a chance to try Gmail for themselves, most people will like it, especially if they currently use web mail.
I know that in debating the issues it is quite right that people who wish to emphasise the positives have the right to do that but be aware that the integrity of this forum and its terms and conditions are being blurred here by the promotion of a contentious service by one identified employee of the company (GoogleGuy) and a wannabe employee of the company (ThatAdamGuy) no offence intended to either of you with this by the way but it does strike me that the tos here are very fragile in this respect and we should be thinking about and discussing *the issues* here.
It says nothing about the concerns of many of the independent webmasters at this forum about having their intellectual property used to target ads for their competitors.
I do not care to reopen the topic of whether this is a major or minor concern.
I am just curious why GoogleGuy and everyone else at Google has remained silent on this issue.
[edited by: figment88 at 11:17 pm (utc) on April 14, 2004]