February 18, 2005 12:04 PM PST

Gmail moves to next stage

Social networking is out and straight invitations are in at Google's free e-mail service, but the official line is that the shift does not signal an end to Gmail's beta status.

Google is giving more people the chance to sign up for Gmail, but the search giant insists the move does not signify an impending full-scale launch of the free e-mail service, which has been in beta since it launched on April 1 last year.

To date, Google has been relying on social networking to roll out Gmail, initially inviting some 2,000 people, who were then able to invite a limited number of others themselves. This week though, Google started sending invitations directly to those who have signed up to be kept abreast of updates to the service.

"We're sending invitations to those who supported us during the launch," said a Google representative. But she added, "This does not mean that we're out of beta (or) offering open subscriptions to the world."


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Interest in the service has been high. It made a stir both because it kicked off the move toward bundling significant amounts of storage with free e-mail accounts--1GB in Gmail's case--and because of the revenue model, which relies on context-sensitive advertisements placed alongside e-mails as they are read.

Despite privacy concerns over Gmail, the service has proved alluring, with eBay at one point offering as many as 2,000 listings for Gmail invitations.

Google has since banned sales and swaps, though eBay sellers are still offering some.

In another sign of the service's popularity, a number of utilities have appeared to help people manage their Gmail accounts.

Matt Loney of ZDNet UK reported from London.

2 comments

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yes they are
well i was invited by a friend about a month ago to join.

a week ago i was given 50 invitations to send out

and now my other e-mail account has received an e-mail from Google to sign up for an account (i was on the Gmail info mailing list for the last 8 months or so)

so give it a week and it'l be every man for himself
Posted by RichRobX (4 comments )
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The dam's burst
I waited and waited to be invited, to no end. Then, about 2 months ago I came across a site where I learned that many people were practically choking on the number of available invitations they had to give out.

When I asked for one, I ended up swimming in them. I now have 3 accounts - and NOW I hear back from the Gmail waiting list people.

It appears that within a few weeks, anyone who has ever wanted an account will have at least one.

Not that I really care for it - I still haven't switched from my Hotmail account now that they're at 250MB. Sure Gmail is 4 times that, but I'm still getting used to Gmail's way of doing things (I'm not sure I care for it).
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
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