The Guardian reviews Gmail critically - April 22, 2004—
In the Guardian today, a very insightful review of Gmail, from a writer who has used it and knows a lot about email in general. Here is the excerpt:
Gmail also has some drawbacks, the most important being its lack of standard POP3 or IMAP mail support. Web-based mail services are OK for beginners and people who don't make much use of email, but they are horribly slow and far too inefficient for serious use. The sort of people who are likely to need a gigabyte of mail storage will want to use mail software on their own PCs -Outlook, The Bat, Thunderbird, Eudora, or whatever.
The usual solution is to provide web-based mail free and charge for POP3 access. Google may well do this eventually, probably for a fee, but it goes against the spirit of the enterprise. If users download their mail, they won't be able to use Google to search it locally, and Google will not be able to display appropriate "sponsored links" (small text adverts) alongside their messages. These are shown unobtrusively alongside email in Gmail just as they are alongside Google searches.
To sum up, Gmail flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which offers two ways to handle email: a slow but simple web-based system, accessible from anywhere, and a faster, more powerful approach based on downloading mail to a PC. At the moment, Gmail comes somewhere between the two. But it is not as simple as a web-based mail service should be, and is not as powerful as a PC-based one can be. If the compromise works for you, it's a brilliant innovation. If it doesn't, it could be a terrible mistake.
It is a very thoughtful rundown on the drawbacks of the interface. Given the stink raised over privacy issues (the California politicos are even in it, now?) and the well-placed criticism of its minor superiority to Hotmail, Yahoo! and the rest of them, my prediction is that it will be many months before Gmail launches.
And then there's the name. Gmail. Striking titters in the female half of the web, Gmail: do we really want an email address that makes us think of sex?