Bill Gates Didn't 'Get' Gmail When It First Came Out

When Gmail first came out in 2004, one of its big selling points was that it offered two gigabytes of storage space, eclipsing its nearest competitor by a considerable amount.

In his new book, The Plex, Steven Levy recounts a time shortly after Gmail's launch when he spoke to Bill Gates about the service, and Gates was perplexed as to why they offered so much storage space for free:

"How could you need more than a gig?" the Microsoft co-founder asked, according to Levy. "What've you got in there? Movies? Power-Point presentations?"

Gates proceeded to pepper Levy with questions. "How many messages are there?" he asked, Levy recalls. "Seriously, I'm trying to understand whether it's the number of messages or the size of messages." Levy writes, "After doing the math in his head, he came to the conclusion that Google was doing something wrong."

The idea of never deleting email, or not using a desktop client was a foreign concept to Gates, apparently. These days, Gmail offers over seven gigs of free space for each account (1.5 of which I'm currently using), and everyone else is left following their lead. [Huffington Post]



    Back in the days when PST files didn't go over 2 Gigs :-D Hehe.

    I think anyone with I.T. know-how (let alone a Bill Gates type) should know that if they ever say "You'll never need more than 'x whatevers'", they had better be prepared to be wrong.

      You'll never need more than 7 yottabytes to store TEXT emails.

      You heard it here first

        challenge accepted

    Somewhere around here I have a backup of family Outlook files from ~2004 that stretch well past 1GB in size for one account.

    Having said that, it's not as though SkyDrive hasn't caught up! :--D

    I agree, my gmail is 90MB full and I've got emails that are 4 years old. However I could do with 7GB for my work email instead of a 300MB cap.

      Couldn't agree more.

    gmail launched with 1Gb, not 2. I'm currently using 4.6Gb but i'm sure I could easily clean that out without losing anything important if i wanted to.

      Sound like the words of an addict - I can delete those emails anytime if I wanted.

    Gmail launched with 1GB and I'm over 7.5GB now. Having purchased the extra 20GB for $5/year, I'm a happy chap.

    Gmail user since 2004 (invite only).

    I think part of it was just a cunning sales tactic. Google didn't need to actually have that much storage available, because the majority of people didn't use all of it (I remember reading the figures somewhere, but don't have a link handy). In any case, it was a nice simple way of saying "Google has more" have a one-up over the competition.

      It launched with 1GB per invite only user, but it was easy enough to find someone who had invites after they just kept emailing them to the same account etc.

      And there were people who definitely used that 1GB early on. Back then, people were using them to send large video files to servicemen etc so it wasn't just Google blowing smoke up your ass.

    "640K ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates, 1981
    need i say any more?
    people will always need more space. whether its within their email or their computer.

      Except that quote is a total myth, he never said it and if he did it wasn't in that context.

      Bill Gates did know his software would bloat out to need gigabytes of memory. However, the 640KB limit was put in place when most computers had less than 64KB.

      The limit in the original address space was due to 20 bit address bus - it physically couldn't see more than 1MB (like 32 bits can't see more than 4GB), so with a bit taken out for memory-mapped devices (video mostly) Intel/IBM/MS ended up with the 640KB DOS limit.

    Maybe Gates has a point - should we really need that much space for email? Maybe we don't get email? Are we using it wrong? Should we have movies and power-point presentations in our inboxes? Is there a better way? (More philosophical than an actual question really...)

      I have a few hundred megs at least without any video etc. Its nothing about "using it right", but rather its more efficient to just archive it than to micro manage things. That and having it all there allows it to be searched on in the future, which can be quite handy.

    hehehe... I'm sure Google doesn't have 7gb of free space sitting there for every single gmail account to use...

    its a bluff...

    its not as massive as its sounds... only a minute percentage of accounts would use anything more than a minute amount of the allotted space.

    I love the idea of cloud storage, and love google docs... but just email? it still seems overkill even now.

    As a muso, I filled my gmail in months with wav files I was sending back and forth with my producer, and I have a clear track record of when they were made and sent etc. I've even bought the 25gb gmail package, which I'm half way through filling.

      why don't you send them as mp3's? or something with some compression?

        Probably wanted them to sound as best they could. MP3 is lousy format for making music sound the best it can. Also .wav would be easier to import in to a final track with all the highs and lows kept in rather then a dodgy .mp3

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now