When Google announced that it would be launching a free email service with a whopping gigabyte of storage, that chattering noise you heard was Yahoo!
Ubiquitous obsolescence would make for a compelling headstone engraving. See, if you go to Yahoo!'s site right now, the Web portal is pitching the fact that its four megabytes of storage is "up to twice as much as other free email providers!" How small is Yahoo! going to feel when Google is offering up to 250 times as much as twice as much as other free email providers?
Microsoft's Hotmail will set you up with a scant two megabytes of storage and charge you as much as $59.95 annually on an upgrade to 100 megs in capacity. Yahoo! will match that premium space for $49.79 a year. Google's Gmail is offering 10 times those sums for nada.
Great, right? Well, not exactly. Since announcing the new offering two weeks ago, Google has been slammed for how it plans to monetize this freebie. It will allow its Google AdWords advertisers the opportunity to bid on related keywords that will be served up alongside the emails. So if you're writing a friend to suggest a Las Vegas strip hotel or want to know if your nephew got over the flu, you may find your email saddled with small, clickable text ads about great rates at the Bellagio and discounted Cold-Eeze drops.
Once they've heard about this, I'm guessing that folks will go through two stages. First, they'll think it's pretty cool that an ad can be served up that will relate to the content of their email. The second reaction may be one of outrage. How dare Google sift through the contents of my email until it comes across some attractively priced keywords?
Please. Get over this.
For starters, no human will ever browse through your email or flag it for indecency. This is completely automated. Rest assured that if you enter any term in your search engine of choice, you will be served up related ads because paid search is where it's at these days.
But, more importantly, what were you expecting? There is nothing worse than someone who gets a free meal and asks to keep the bib. There is nothing worse than someone who wants the quid but fails to pony up the quo. That kind of thinking is simply outdated on this sobered-up end of the dot-com bubble. Services need to be monetized -- and paid searches rock in so many ways.
Taken in context
It was on that very premise that I recommended FindWhat.com
By allowing advertisers to bid as little as a nickel for an interested clickthrough now, any sponsor can attract a worthy lead for pennies. While Yahoo!'s Overture pioneered the niche, its minimum keyword bid of a dime has cost it some serious market share to the nickel masters at Google and FindWhat.com. Yet when you think about it, even 10 cents is a reasonable sum to pay for an interested potential customer. It sure beats spending thousands on traditional marketing campaigns that will go wasted on most eyeballs.
Google and its paid search competitors have empowered the bootstrapped entrepreneur as well as the major conglomerate with the ideal cost-effective sponsorship format. Paid search providers have also improved the quality of your cybersurfing experience. No, really! Google's AdSense program has let online sites back off from annoying pop-up ads or obtrusive flash pitches by providing the potential for a more lucrative revenue stream by running unobtrusive, yet relevant, AdWords text ads instead.
While the paid search powerhouses offered these sponsored spots to popular sites, Google inexplicably beat a sleepy-eyed Overture to the grassroots punch with the AdSense innovation last summer. You may not believe it, but that single introduction may very well assure that you will always have plenty of free, quality, independent content available online.
But you're still steamed about Google serving up contextual ads in a free email service that hasn't even launched yet, aren't you? The solution is obvious. Don't sign up for it. If you would rather be hit up with large graphic ads that sometimes force you to go through extra clicks to retrieve your email, maybe one of the existing free email services is more up your alley.
Naturally you are probably already paying your Internet service provider like Time Warner's
Besides, in the end, isn't it all just a novelty? With all of the spam going around, maybe it's worth it to open a Google Gmail account just to see how quickly Pfizer's
In the end you have to ask yourself what is more obtrusive. Do you want a noisy, flickering ad that throws off your email viewing stint, or are you willing to allow the same automaton that trolls your search portal requests -- and helps bankroll smaller content sites -- to now toil away on one more platform?
I've made my choice. When Google officially launches its Gmail product, I'll let you know where you can reach me if you disagree.
Rick Aristotle Munarriz is a proud participant of Google's AdWords and AdSense services. He also helped develop the TrackMeat affiliate program, tracking software for AdSense and Commission Junction. He doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.