The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I should have seen this coming... By virtue of my use of Google-owned Blogger, I've been invited to be a beta tester for Gmail. And I've accepted, despite the rather cynical view I took the email venture a few weeks back, not to mention the rather knee-jerk privacy concerns and other limitations it has.

I find it interesting that Google is using Blogger as a means to extend beta testing. Obviously, the intent is to get the blogging community buzzing about Gmail, thus giving it a positive, anti-establishment cache. In effect, Google is using Blogger as its very own news service! This would counter the bad-to-lukewarm reaction that it's gotten thus far in the mainstream and tech press, over the privacy issues spurred by the ad-placement strategy. Assuming the use of Gmail isn't terrible, the strategy should work. It's no surprise--I've noticed that Google is very adept at employing low-level public relations initiatives to generate gee-whiz good spin and exposure in the media. It's a big reason for their success.

I'm all set up with my account, and so far it looks like a standard Web-based email interface. I don't know how extensively I'll be using it; I suppose if I want to take full advantage of the massive storage and archive search function, I should fill that sucker up quick! But that'll come. If I discover anything noteworthy while using it, I'll post here; if nothing else, it should make for good blog filler.

I do have a couple of minor quibbles right off the bat:

- It doesn't seem to play nice with the Mac environment, even using the latest version of Internet Explorer. The reason it doesn't leads me to the second beef:

- It makes use of ActiveX to run, which is a major drawback. ActiveX is a welcome mat for malicious code to infect your computer, and does nothing to enhance the browsing experience. It's certainly not a requirement to run a Web email service; Yahoo! Mail, which I've used for years, doesn't bother with it. I think Google should dump the ActiveX component; otherwise, it's indirectly helping to make the Internet a less secure place.

- Maybe I just haven't dug enough into it yet, but so far, there doesn't appear to be a way to create and store an automatically-appended signature to the end of each message you send out. That's a pretty standard feature for email clients, both system-native and Web-based (Yahoo! Mail has it, for instance).