Happy Birthday, Gmail!

gmail-cake2Gmail turned five years old this week. It’s somewhat amazing to think we’ve only had it since 2004; Gmail changed the webmail game forever by offering features we now take for granted: a streamlined interface, powerful search, pioneering use of Ajax and a then-huge 1 GB of mailbox space (other webmail providers, like Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, were offering just a few megabytes’ worth). “You’ll never need to delete another message” was how Google (s goog) described it at the time.

Back then, I was still making do with Hotmail. But its clunky interface and paltry amount of storage space (just 2MB!) made the decision to move on an easy one. Getting an invitation code to Gmail wasn’t easy, but getting an account made all the difference in the world to my email experience. Suddenly I was freed from having to delete emails every few days to make space in my mailbox. And the app was slick and responsive, like a desktop client — and blazingly fast in comparison to Hotmail. “Conversation view” and using labels instead of folders took a little getting used to, but in all Gmail felt far more professional and made me much more productive.

Gmail is a favorite app of ours over on WebWorkerDaily, and with good reason. It’s still the best webmail client for web workers as it lets us access our email whenever and wherever we need to, on any device, with minimum fuss. And Google hasn’t spent the five years sitting on its Gmail laurels, either, but has introduced improvements to the service that include Gmail Tasks (which, while simple, is powerful enough to use in a GTD system), chat, video chat and voice chat, integration with Google Calendar and Docs, Google Apps for Domains, and, of course, even more storage. We’ve recently covered the slew of new productivity-boosting features found in Gmail Labs: a way to “undo” sent messages, using canned responses for smart autoresponders, offline support using Gears and how to customize the way you view your mailbox using multiple inboxes.

So many happy returns, Gmail; you make my life as a web worker so much easier. One thing still bugs me, though — five years in, isn’t it time to remove the “beta” tag?

How has Gmail changed your life?