When Google debuted its Gmail e-mail service in 2004, the Internet community thought it was a joke. Not just because the service debuted on April Fool’s Day, but because Google promised storage space of 1 gigabyte – for starters. Its competitors, like Hotmail, offered 2 megabytes of storage, with paying customers eligible for an additional 2 megabytes.
However, as Google enjoys its online dominance by upping the offering to 15 gigabytes across three of its key services, perhaps the Menlo Park-based company is the one having the last laugh.
Trimming the fat
Amid all the hoopla over more storage, two Google stalwarts will take their bows this year: the startpage and webportal iGoogle will be discontinued on November 1st, 2013; and Google Reader be retired on July 1st, 2013.
Google pointed to the declining usage of Reader as one reason for its discontinuation, where the function of iGoogle was now being served better by various applications and mobile web portals.
As Reader and iGoogle fade away, Google is looking to consolidate its strengths: Google Drive, having taken over from Google Docs, now rivals Dropbox for cloud storage dominance; with 425 million users, Gmail is the most popular e-mail platform on the Internet; and while Google+ may never usurp Facebook as the emperor of social media, the medium is far too lucrative for Google to abandon.
By uniting three of its services by giving them shared storage space, Google is attempting to tackle its two main challengers in one maneuver. Dropbox, for example, gives standard users only 2 gigabytes of space to start with, for a maximum of 18 gigabytes if they refer more users. Users who pay can claim anywhere from 100 gigabytes to 1 terabyte – but with Google offering 15 gigabytes of storage for free, Dropbox’s basic plan is looking very basic indeed.
Google+, Drive and Gmail vs. Facebook
In terms of storage space, Facebook can’t even compete with Dropbox’s 2 gigabytes, let alone Google’s 15. But Mark Zuckerburg’s company might lose sleep over the increased integration between Google Drive, Plus and Gmail allowing users to seamlessly share files across the three mediums. A document might be received by e-mail, edited in Drive and posted for friends and contacts to see on Plus, with nary a logout or password having to be remembered.
In light of Facebook’s iron-clad grasp on social media, Google+ has struggled for adoption; the former has over 1 billion active users per month, but Google+ tops out at 235 million (despite 500 million registered members).
The New Google
With Google now presenting a combined, leaner front, the sharing of 15 gigabytes across three major services for all its users is a big blow against its remaining competitors. Dropbox will have to do some serious thinking to improve from a simple 2 gigabytes for non-paying customers; and while Facebook will not see a significant loss from Google’s upgrade, the social media juggernaut may well abandon plans of ever foraying into the e-mail or cloud storage market.
Unless, that is, they want to play an April Fool’s joke on everyone.