GMail – changing attitudes towards HTML email

So far I’ve read that one of GMail‘s goals is changing people’s attitude towards their email storage. With huge, and evergrowing, inbox sizes people don’t have to delete any messages anymore. They still can, if they wish so, but they don’t have to.

After using GMail for some time, I noticed that one of my other attitudes is changing. I’ve always been on the opposite side of HTML email lovers. And I still believe that HTML email is evil. But there is a but.

With GMail, all email is HTML. I mean you’re already in the browser, aren’t you? So, how does this affect things?

GMail rich content

GMail can be used to email yourself some pretty looking HTML emails. Things like lists, highlighted text (think: yellow marker), and links with descriptive captions instead of Really Long URLs ™ can really enrich your email experience. Notes, outlines, and shopping lists are among some really frequent content.

And the beauty of it is that with GMail you are always sure that it will display exactly as you wanted it, and that you won’t get complains like “Send me the text version of that”, granted that you only email yourself and other people who use GMail (except those psycho geeks who use GMail via POP access only, with a text-only mail client).

If used appropriately, this can make world a tiny bit better. And you know, I’m all for that.

Privacy Subtleties of GMail

Here’s yet another take on GMail privacy – Privacy Subtleties of GMail. This time it comes from a guy who had to balance his opinion between two polar sides he is at:

I come to this problem from two sides. One, I’m a fan of Google, and have been friends with Google’s management since they started the company. I’ve also consulted for Google on other matters and make surprising revenue from their Adsense program on my web site.

I’m also a privacy advocate and Chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, well regarded as one of the top civil rights advocates in cyberspace. The EFF has issued some statements of privacy concern over GMail, though we declined joining the coalition against it. (I’m writing this as my own essay, though with some advice from the EFF team.) I’ve also had a chance to talk at length with Google President Larry Page about some of the issues.

The Trouble with Gmail

Mark Rasch shares his GMail concerns in the article at Security Focus titled The Trouble with Gmail.

perhaps the most ominous thing about the proposed Gmail service is the often-heard argument that it poses no privacy risk because only computers are scanning the e-mail. I would argue that it makes no difference to our privacy whether the contents of communications are read by people or by computers programmed by people.

The Fuss About Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It’s Bogus

Tim O’Reilly is always a worthy read. Here are some quotes.

On the future of storage:

I remember Bob Morris, head of IBM’s Storage Division and the Almaden Research Labs, telling me a couple of years ago, that before too long, storage would be cheap enough and small enough that someone who wanted to do so could film every moment of his life, and carry the record around in a pocket. Scary? Maybe. But the future is always scary to those who cling to the past. It is enormously exciting if you focus on the possibilities. Just think how much value Google and other online information providers have already brought to all of our lives — the ability to find facts, in moments, from a library larger than any of us could have imagined a decade ago.

On the future of computers:

At my conference on peer-to-peer networking, web services, and distributed computation back in 2001, Clay Shirky, reflecting on “Lessons from Napster”, retold the old story about Thomas J. Watson, founder of the modern IBM. “I see no reason for more than five of these machines in the world,” Watson is reputed to have said. “We now know that he was wrong,” Clay went on. The audience laughed knowingly, thinking of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of computers deployed worldwide. But then Clay delivered his punch line: “We now know that he overstated the number by four.”

On Google:

Pioneers like Google are remaking the computing industry before our eyes. Google of course isn’t one computer — it’s a hundred thousand computers, by report — but to the user, it appears as one.

Conspiracy of context sensitive advertising

I think I’ve uncovered another conspiracy by Google, particularly with their context sensitive advertising service AdSense. It’s not a bad conspiracy – as far as I am concerned, they are trying to do a good thing. But still, it’s a mean way to go about it.

A reader of this blog left a comment to one of my earlier posts about media brain wash, a story about Dell notebook exploding at some conference. Jon agreed with me that this story was a pure media hype. In his comment he said exactly this:

Now it won’t be long before some terrorist hops on a plane with Dell laptop batteries strapped all over his body. I agree, this story is media hype.

In order for me not to miss any comments, and to respond faster to my readers, the moment any of your post a comment, I get an email notification. As you know, recently I moved all my email affairs to Google’s mail service GMail. Now, Google uses its own AdSense service to show ads to people while they are reading their emails. The content of the email is used to determine which related ads should be shown.

GMail adsense When I openned a notification email with Jon’s comment I was shown four ads on the right. All four ad links were about notebooks. Two links were generic, but two others featured a brand. And although the brand in the content of the email was Dell, both branded ads were about IBM.

Now, you might think that this is just a coinsidence. But for two links out of four? I don’t think so. What is more probable is that Google undestood that Dell brand was used in connection with terrorism and tried to substitute that for IBM. Probably that was an attempt to sell non-explosive items to terrorists. Thanks Google, but no thanks.

NOTE (this note should have been written a very small font, but since noone will read so far down, I’ll leave it as it is): please, don’t take this entry seriously. I’m just messing with you.