Why people shouldn’t be afraid of Gmail

There has been a ton of buzz lately about Gmail, Google’s free email service. 1000 megabytes of free storage, Google Search Technology, and of course all sorts of Google usability improvements. I’m sure Google has stuff still in the labs to enhance it at some point in the future as well, I could see searching attachments, viewing Word, and Acrobat files as HTML, all in the works.

How will they pay for this quite amazing offer? “relevant text ads”. I think most already know what I’m talking about when I say, this, if not check out MacVillage.net which has Google’s text ad service on the homepage.

What is it?

Here’s a really simple summary. Google sells a ton of advertising. And I mean a ton, they sell for their own website, as well as many others. To make sure the ads are effective, they like to “target” the ads. This is similar on other forms of media. For example, on TV, you will find sports and fitness related ads on ESPN, while the Food Network may not necessarily carry the same ads. Why? Because the audience on ESPN is most likely into sports, and fitness. The ads are most effective when people interested in the products. Makes sense right?

Well, Google does the same thing. When it sells ads on a Macintosh Website like MacVillage.net, it targets them towards Mac users, hence you see ads like “Expert Macintosh service”, “Macintosh Support”, “Mac Service & Support”. Because those ads will do good on a Mac website, rather than a PC website. These ads are now worth more to the advertiser, who will pay more to Google, who will in turn payout more to MacVillage.net. Google does the same on it’s own search engine (the right hand side), relevant ads are worth quite a bit, since it’s perfect real estate for advertisers

How do they know what to show?

Google hasn’t disclosed the technology in real detail, but one could assume, their technology assigns keywords to the ad campaign. It then looks at the text of the page that needs an advertisement. If the examines that page for relevant keywords, and places the highest ranking advertisement that fits the page.

So what’s the deal about privacy?

That’s the question of the day. Google’s system is undoubtedly automated. It would be impossible to hire enough employees to screen all data and figure out relevant ads. Your mail is technically handled by many systems that process/analyze it anyway. From virus scans, spam filters, to your mail client just figuring out if it should make certain text bold, underlined, or italics. Or how to process an inline image. Lots of software looks at your mail.

Personally, I don’t see the difference between Google, and Yahoo, Hotmail, or any other mail provider’s technology, except that Google is being smart, and providing a superior service, by selling relevant ads. How is this any more invasive? All Google did was put things together.

Personally, I think some people worry to much about privacy, and not enough about security. Instead of crying because a company put ads on a free service that you choose to use… Why not apply some patches to your buggy Windows computer so a hackers/spammer isn’t using it to flood my email with spam. To me, that’s much more invasive.

Just my $0.02.

3 thoughts on “Why people shouldn’t be afraid of Gmail

  1. I think they know what to show in another way: they look at people who go there from their search, and use *those* keywords. That way, you actually get ads that are targeted at what people are looking for, rather than ads that have something to do with the page they’re on.

  2. How safe can Google guarantee? How good is Google’s technology? with 1GB of space powered by a number of scripts (sending relevant ads) I am sure people will figure out a way to place a bomb in Gmail, and destroy Google completely.

    Well, not my 2 cents, but my fear .

  3. Antony: That’s something any other email service faces as well. And it’s proven to be rare, and an easy fix. once done on the server, it’s fixed… don’t need to get everyone to download a patch.

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