Is Google’s new plan to hand out free 1GB email accounts legit, or an incredibly elaborate April Fool’s day joke? If it’s a joke, it’s been exquisitely executed – there’s much more to this than a press release — they’ve set up a subdomain for it (gmail.google.com), a FAQ, even a signup form. On the other hand, the idea of giving out 1GB of storage free for the asking almost seems preposterous, even with cheap drive space, even with advertising support (one poster on MacSlash estimated the cost of supporting 10 million such users at $28 million in RAID platters alone). And the press release seems pretty flip in places. On the other hand, $28 million may be a drop in the bucket compared to the ad revenue they’ll earn over time (they earn around $3 billion / year in ad revenue from search engine text ad placement already). Remember that Google has built elaborate prank sites before — pigeonrank anyone?
Forbes and The Guardian are taking the story seriously. So if GMail is for real, why announce it on April Fool’s day? To get fools like me to post about it, that’s why. A game that will turn out not to be a game?
And I suppose the ad placement plan ties neatly into existing theories about Google’s plans to database the heck out of your life in order to deliver ads appropriate to your lifestyle and interests with surgical precision.