Get Outta Beta, Gmail

So Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Gmail service ain't perfect. Yesterday's 2.5-hour outage of the Web-mail interface was not the first downtime its users ever saw, and it probably won't be the last.

But it's time to remove the ridiculously long-lived "beta" tag from Gmail anyway. Google is already treating the service like a production-level product:

  • Gmail goes down for a couple of hours, and Google gives business users 15 days of free service. The only thing that separates this from a real service level agreement is the published terms of compensation for the time lost.
  • IMAP and POP3 access to Gmail accounts never went down, so a properly prepared user could have worked around the failure of the browser-based interface. All you needed was a copy of Outlook Express, or Mozilla Thunderbird, or any old e-mail reader you like.
  • It's hard to call Gmail "experimental" or "not ready for general use" when it sports 31 million monthly users. Only Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL can boast bigger webmail services, and Google is closing in fast on all of them.
  • The "beta tag" has been affixed to the Gmail logo for nearly five years now. It's time to either dump this fair maiden or put a ring on her finger. And I don't see a breakup happening.

So slap together a term sheet and redesign the Gmail logo, Google. You don't want web-service upstarts like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) , or even Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) to come up with their own business-level webmail services, snagging corporate accounts from right under your nose. That "beta" moniker is sure to keep several potential buyers at arm's length.

Like I said, Google is already treating Gmail like serious business. The company might as well make it official and reap the benefits.

Further Foolishness:

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He's been using Gmail exclusively since 2005. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


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  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2009, at 1:23 PM, seththomas98 wrote:

    GOOG can also log the expenses of running GMAIL as R&D while it keeps the "beta" tag. This makes them look very efficient.

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