Though Google did not officially launch its Gmail e-mail service today as was rumored on the Internet, it did double users' storage capacity to 2 gigabytes on the one-year anniversary of its April 1 beta test launch.
Google called the move its “Infinity+1” storage plan and said it was in response to user need, but it is likely also a response to Yahoo's recent announcement that it would boost its own storage capacity to 1 GB in mid-April.
Google also said it would not stop increasing storage at 2 GB but did not say when the service might leave beta.
Since Google pulled off the beta announcement on April Fools' Day so well last year — many users thought the news was a joke — industry observers said they wouldn't be surprised if Google execs pulled another successful “prank.”
“Maybe April Fools' Day is going to be the annual event to launch something from Google,” said Gary Stein, senior analyst with JupiterResearch, a division of Jupitermedia Corp., New York.
Google has not revealed how many customers use Gmail, but analysts think that given the viral nature of its signup process, it has enough subscribers to launch.
Yahoo and other free e-mail services are bracing for the full launch, with Yahoo raising its storage capacity to four times what it offered before.
Kevin Lee, chairman of search engine marketing firm Did-It.com, said he didn't think Gmail necessarily would harm Google's competitors.
“Just like there are people who use multiple search engines, people will use multiple e-mail [services],” he said.
When Gmail does launch, advertisers will be affected. With Google's automatic streaming of contextual ads to users' e-mails, e-newsletter publishers, for example, will face competing banner ads appearing next to their e-mails.
But Gmail will provide more impression volume for advertisers, and the possibility of very targeted marketing, Stein said.
Further good news for advertisers is that Gmail now supports rich e-mails, including colors and a few different fonts. And HTML e-mails usually appear in HTML form, instead of being converted to text format, according to reports.