In 2004, a Google press release revealed that the company wasn't satisfied with dominating Internet searches -- the second-most popular online activity. Google wanted to tackle the biggest online service on the Internet: e-mail. To that end, Google announced it would allow a select number of people to test a Web-hosted e-mail service called Gmail [source: Google].
Gmail started out as Google's internal e-mail service. When Google decided to make Gmail available to people outside of the company, it chose to take a gradual approach. At first, the only way to get a Gmail account was to receive an invitation from someone else. Nearly three years after announcing Gmail, Google opened up access to the public at large. Now anyone can create a Gmail account.
Gmail organizes messages into "conversations." If someone sends you a message and you respond, Gmail will present the two messages together in a stack. The original e-mail will be on top and your reply will appear beneath it. Future messages will appear under the originals, which Gmail collapses so that they don't take up too much space on your screen. By grouping messages and responses together, Gmail makes it easier for users to keep track of several discussions at once.
Some people think that communication by e-mail is dying (or is already dead). Google appears to have an answer to that as well: Google Talk. Find out more about it on the next page.