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20 Years Ago, Google’s April 1st Joke Was the Revolutionary Gmail

old gmail logo

Google’s jokes for April 1st have been the stuff of legend but this year we celebrate something very serious.

20 years ago to this day, Google’s April 1st ‘joke’ was the serious launch of Gmail, a service that revolutionized not just emails, but the internet itself.

Back when it wasn’t at all unusual to host your own email server, and when storage costs online were eye watering, Gmail launched with 1 GB personal free space. It was an offer few could refuse and, in the years since, Gmail has kept its lead as the most popular email client.

An AP retrospective explains why Gmail was revolutionary, and also shares a hilarious story about the ‘prank’:

“Besides the quantum leap in storage, Gmail also came equipped with Google’s search technology so users could quickly retrieve a tidbit from an old email, photo or other personal information stored on the service. It also automatically threaded together a string of communications about the same topic so everything flowed together as if it was a single conversation.” 

Gmail’s features were so good back in 2004, people literally didn’t believe the service was true, and thought Google was making another geeky joke. Associated Press says that, when they reported Gmail’s launch, “readers began calling and emailing to inform the news agency it had been duped by Google’s pranksters.”

What came next after Gmail’s launch? Google came out with Google Maps and Google Docs, then bought YouTube. 

It was a superstar lineup but, of course, for each successful Google launch are probably hundreds of products Google unceremoniously killed. 

Yes, that’s a dig towards Stadia and Google Music.

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