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Gmail is a free, advertising-supported email service provided by Google. Users may access Gmail as secure webmail,[6] as well as via POP3 or IMAP4 protocols. Gmail initially started as an invitation-only beta release on April 1, 2004[9] and it became available to the general public on February 7, 2007, though still in beta status at that time.The service was upgraded from beta status on July 7, 2009, along with the rest of the Google Apps suite.

With an initial storage capacity offer of 1 GB per user, Gmail significantly increased the webmail standard for free storage from the 2 to 4 MB its competitors such as Hotmail offered at that time. Individual Gmail messages, including attachments, may be up to 25 MB.[14] Gmail has a search-oriented interface and a "conversation view" similar to an Internet forum. Gmail is noted by web developers for its pioneering use of Ajax.Gmail runs on Google GFE/2.0 on Linux.As of June 2012, it was the most widely used web-based email provider with over 425 million active users worldwide. According to a 2014 estimate, 60% of mid-sized US companies were using Gmail. In May 2014, Gmail became the first app on the Google Play Store to hit one billion installations on Android devices.

Gmail was originally launched with 1 GB of storage space.

On April 1, 2005, the first anniversary of Gmail, the limit was doubled to 2 GB. Georges Harik, the product management director for Gmail, stated that Google would "keep giving people more space forever."[23]

On April 24, 2012, Google announced the increase of free storage in Gmail from 7.5 GB to 10 GB ("and counting") as part of the launch of Google Drive.[24]

On May 13, 2013 Google announced the overall merge of storage across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google+ Photos allowing users 15 GB of free storage among the three services.[25][26]

Users can buy additional storage, shared among Gmail, Google Drive and Google+ Photos, through a monthly subscription plan. As of 2015, storage of up to 15 GB is free, and paid plans are available for up to 30 TB for personal use.[27]

Gmail Labs[edit]
The Gmail Labs feature, introduced on June 5, 2008,[28] allows users to test new or experimental features of Gmail, such as bookmarking of important email messages or custom keyboard shortcuts. Users can enable or disable Labs features selectively and provide feedback about each of them. This allows Gmail engineers to obtain user input about new features to improve them and also to assess their popularity. Popular features, like the "Undo Send" option, often "graduate" from Gmail Labs to become a formal setting in Gmail.[29] All Labs features are experimental and are subject to termination at any time.[30]

Tabbed inbox[edit]
In mid-2013, Google updated the Gmail inbox with tabs which allow the application to categorize the user's emails. The five tabs are: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. These tabs also appear in Gmail's mobile version. In addition to customization options, the entire update can be disabled, allowing users to return to the traditional inbox structure.[31][32]

Spam filter[edit]
Gmail's spam filtering features a community-driven system: when any user marks an email as spam, this provides information to help the system identify similar future messages for all Gmail users.[33][34] Users may tune the system to allow mail marked as spam to be handled in particular ways.[33] Google Inc. claims that mail sent to or from Gmail is never read by a human being other than the account holder, and content that is read by computers is only used to improve the relevance of advertisements and block spam emails.[35] The privacy policies of other popular email services, like Outlook.com and Yahoo, allow users' personal information to be collected and utilized for advertising purposes.[36][37]

Gmail Mobile[edit]
Gmail Mobile is available in more than 40 languages.[38] It is a free service, developed to provide access to Gmail from mobile devices. Gmail Mobile offers many of the features[specify] as Gmail delivered effectively to smaller, mobile screens.[39]

On September 22, 2009 Google added push support to Gmail using Google Sync for iPhone and iPod Touch platforms.[40][41]

Social network integration[edit]
On February 9, 2010, Google commenced its new social networking tool, Google Buzz, which integrated with Gmail allowing users to share links and media, as well as status updates.[42] Buzz was launched with an automatic opt-in, causing an uproar in the Gmail community which led Google to quickly undo its initial moves.[43] Buzz was discontinued in December 2011 in favor of Google+.

As of January 2014, Gmail allows users to send emails to people who have Google+ accounts, even if they don't have each other's email addresses.[44]

Google Voice in Gmail chat[edit]
Main article: Google Voice
In August 2010, Google released a plugin that provides integrated telephone service within Gmail's Google Chat interface. This service initially lacked an official name, with Google referring to it as "Google Voice in Gmail chat" and also "Call Phones in Gmail",[45][46][47] but is now called Google Video and Voice Chat. The service allows people to make free calls from their Gmail account to U.S. and Canada, at least through the end of 2012.[48] Gmail account users can also call other countries on a fee basis. The service logged over 1 million calls in 24 hours on 26 August 2010.[49]

As of February 2015, Google Voice in Gmail chat still allows users to call U.S., Canada, and a few other countries for free.[citation needed]

Google Voice multi-way videoconferencing (with support for document sharing) is now integrated with Google Hangouts.[50]

Gmail Search[edit]
Gmail incorporates a search bar for searching emails. The search bar can also search contacts, files stored in Google Drive, events from Google Calendar, and Google Sites.[51] It can also make web searches via Google Search. On May 21, 2012, Gmail improved the search functionality to include auto-complete predictions from the user's emails.[52] As with a web search, Gmail's search functionality does not support searching for word fragments (also known as 'substring search'), although it does perform partial-string stemming (e.g. searching for 'month' will turn up an email that includes the term 'months').[53]

Language input[edit]
As of October 2013, Gmail supports handwriting input for 75 languages after Google introduced the Transliteration, Input Method Editor (IME), and Virtual Keyboard input tools to Gmail's settings. The update allows Gmail users to switch between over 100 virtual keyboards and transliterations that support languages such as Hebrew, Thai, and Arabic.[54][55][56]

On August 5, 2014, Gmail became the first major email provider to let users send and receive email from addresses with accent marks and letters from outside the Latin alphabet.[57]

Money transfer and payment options[edit]
At the Google I/O 2013 conference, held on May 15, 2013, Google announced a feature that allows Gmail users to send money as email attachments via Google Wallet.[58] Google then explained in a blog post:

Google Wallet is now integrated with Gmail, so you can quickly and securely send money to friends and family directly within Gmail — even if they don't have a Gmail address. It's free to send money if your bank account is linked to Google Wallet or using your Google Wallet balance, and low fees apply to send money using your linked credit or debit card.[59]

Google planned to roll out the feature "over the coming months" following the announcement.[59]

Prior to the launch of the email attachment feature, the corporation's plan to introduce a physical Google Wallet card was publicized in 2012,[60] but the project was abandoned due to logistical problems and following the departure of the head of the Wallet team in early May 2013.[61][62] Following the Google I/O announcement, Google then reintroduced the card product in the US on November 21, 2013 as a debit card for Wallet accounts (the initial concept was a unifying card that could represent all of the user's credit cards)—the Digital Trends website described it as "essentially a standard debit card that you can use to pay with things using your Google balance." As of December 2013, the card was free to obtain and the shipping period was around 14 days.[61]

At one time Gmail used an unencrypted connection to retrieve user data, encrypting only the connection used for the login page. However, by replacing the URL http://mail.google.com/mail/ with https://mail.google.com/mail/, users were able to force Gmail to use a secure connection, reducing the risk of third-party eavesdropping on user information, such as emails and contacts, which are transmitted in plaintext as JavaScript data in the page source code. Starting in July 2008, it was possible to configure Gmail for HTTPS access only through the Settings - this prevented any insecure access via HTTP. POP3 and IMAP access uses Transport Layer Security, or TLS. At present Gmail now defaults to a secure HTTPS connection.

Although email clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird use TLS when sending email, it is not used when the email is sent from the Gmail servers to the destination domain's mail exchangers, unless supported, so at some stage the user's email message may still be transmitted in unencrypted plain text.

On March 20, 2014, Google announced the implementation of an enhancement of the overall security of Gmail in response to the Edward Snowden privacy revelations in 2013. An encrypted HTTPS connection will be used for the sending and receipt of all Gmail emails, and "every single email message you send or receive—100% of them—is encrypted while moving internally" through the corporation's systems.[63][64]

Around 2007, Gmail had severe security issues which allowed a full account compromise via Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities affecting the google.com homepage or information disclosure through a file which was stored on Google's server and included all the Email contacts of the currently logged in user. The vulnerability was quickly patched after the initial disclosure on the Internet.[65][66]

Gmail offers spam filtering: the system automatically deletes messages marked as spam after 30 days. Users can disable the spam-filtering system by creating a rule to make all messages skip the spam filter. POP3 users can only check the Spam folder manually via the web interface, as only emails sent to the Inbox can be retrieved via POP3. This is a technical limitation of POP3. In 2008, about 75% of email sent to Gmail accounts was filtered as spam.[67]

IP addresses of webmail Gmail users are disguised in order to protect security, an early decision by Paul Buchheit.[68][69]

Gmail automatically scans all incoming and outgoing e-mails for viruses in e-mail attachments. If a virus is found on an attachment the reader is trying to open, Gmail will try to remove the virus and open the cleaned attachment. Gmail also scans all outgoing attachments and will prevent the message from being sent if a virus is found. Gmail also does not allow users to send or receive executable files or archives containing executable files.[70]

On June 5, 2012, a new security feature was introduced to protect users from state-sponsored attacks. Whenever Google analysis indicate that a government has attempted to compromise an account, Gmail will display a notice that reads "Warning: We believe state-sponsored attackers may be trying to compromise your account or computer."[71][72]

Google may terminate a Gmail account after nine months of inactivity (as of 2008).[73] Other webmail services have different, often shorter, times for marking an account as inactive. Yahoo! Mail deactivates dormant accounts after twelve months.[74][75]

2-Step Verification[edit]
Gmail supports 2-Step Verification, which is a form of two factor authentication.[76] Once enabled, users are required to verify their identity using a second method after entering their username and password when logging in on a new computer. Usually, users enter a 6-digit code sent to their phones through a text message or voice call.[77] Users may also set up a compatible mobile app, such as Google Authenticator, to generate codes for them, even when they do not have cell service.[78]

On October 21, 2014, Google announced the integration of Universal Second Factor (U2F) into the Chrome browser, which allowed the use of a physical security key for two-step verification.[79][80][81] Users can choose U2F Security Key as their primary method of 2-Step Verification, instead of having to rely on verification codes sent by SMS or generated on their phones.[82] Compared to 6-digit codes, Security Key offers better protection against phishing and eliminates the need for a mobile device.[83]

24-hour lockdowns[edit]
If an algorithm detects what Google calls "abnormal usage that may indicate that your account has been compromised", the account can be automatically locked down for between one minute and 24 hours, depending on the type of activity detected. Listed reasons for a lock-down include:[84]

"Receiving, deleting, or downloading large amounts of mail via POP or IMAP in a short period of time. If you're getting the error message, 'Lockdown in Sector 4,' you should be able to access Gmail again after waiting 24 hours."[84]
"Sending a large number of undeliverable messages (messages that bounce back)."[84]
"Using file-sharing or file-storage software, browser extensions, or third party software that automatically logs into your account."[84]
"Leaving multiple instances of Gmail open."[84]
"Browser-related issues. Please note that if you find your browser continually reloading while attempting to access your Inbox, it's probably a browser issue, and it may be necessary to clear your browser's cache and cookies."[84]
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