It's difficult to pin down the exact origin of email, but in October 1971, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email.Technorati Tags: Gmail, Email, Google Blog
At the time, it must not have seemed very important – nobody bothered to save that first message or even record the exact date. I've always thought that it would be fun to witness a little bit of history like that – to be there when something important happened. That's part of what drove me to join a little no-name startup named Google, and it's why I was excited when I was given a chance to create a new email product, now called Gmail.
Of course that wasn't the only reason why I wanted to build Gmail. I rely on email, a lot, but it just wasn't working for me. My email was a mess. Important messages were hopelessly buried, and conversations were a jumble; sometimes four different people would all reply to the same message with the same answer because they didn't notice the earlier replies. I couldn't always get to my email because it was stuck on one computer, and web interfaces were unbearably clunky. And I had spam. A lot of it. With Gmail I got the opportunity to change email – to build something that would work for me, not against me.
We had a lot of ideas, but first we spent a lot of time talking to all kinds of people about their email. They let us watch over their shoulders and helped us really understand how they use email and what they need from it. We didn't want to simply bolt new features onto old interfaces. We needed to rethink email, but at the same time we needed to respect that email already had over 30 years of history, thousands of existing programs, and nearly a billion users. So we started by learning which features were most important, and which problems were most aggravating. We also realized that solving everyone's problems was too big of a challenge for the first release. It would be better to build a product that a lot of people love, than one that everyone tolerates, and so that was our goal...
Saturday, October 22, 2005
From Paul Buchheit, Gmail's first engineer, on the Google Blog: