*NEWS*E-MAIL….. IS THE NEW DATABASE
*NEWS*E-MAIL….. IS THE NEW DATABASE
2005-02-11 at 11:06:00 am #10186E-mail is the new database
“If a friend is excited about a concert and that gives me an
idea for a birthday gift, I will store the info on e-mail,” says Georges Harik,
the man in charge of search-engine Google’s Gmail service.
Stuart Anderson, Microsoft’s Hotmail business manager in the UK, keeps online
shopping receipts in his mailbox in case he has to query anything later.
“People are keeping a lot more information in their e-mail accounts for
retrieval at a later date,” says Yahoo!
Web-based e-mail services like Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail and AOL Mail on the Web
are becoming databases by default as a growing number of people use them, to
store data and photos so they can retrieve them from anywhere.
The trend has become more pronounced as the services have dramatically
increased their storage capacity in response to upstart Gmail offering a free
service with 1,000 megabytes (Mb) of storage.
“E-mail is a way of interacting not just with others, but also with yourself,
” says Mr Harik, who is director of Googlettes (new Google services). “You want
to remember something, so you send it to your mailbox.”
For all but the very organised, old e-mails will contain phone numbers that
haven’t been entered into a diary, names and addresses of contacts, meeting or
customer information, useful statistics or competitor information and photos of
products and people.
The market for web-based e-mail services is still growing. “In the US, it
grew 3% between April and November 2004,” said Andreas Gutjahr, marketing
manager, UK & Germany, for Neilsen//NetRatings, a Nasdaq-listed internet
He says the number of minutes users spend connected is also rising.
But even where there is a small subscription fee, e-mail does not make much
money in itself. The prize is in the number of users – and therefore advertisers
- the providers can lure, not just to their online mailboxes but also to portals
like MSN and search engines like Google and Yahoo!.
Gmail “will be very profitable for us,” says Mr Harik.
But if web e-mail is being used for more than just sending and receiving
messages, how will this affect the market shares of the different providers?
One possibility is that Hotmail’s market dominance could be affected by rival
services better equipped to search through thousands of e-mails.
Both Yahoo! and Google have had internet search engines as part of their core
business from the start. So they are well placed to offer efficient e-mail
Gmail was designed with the idea of searching for unstructured, unfiled
information in mind. Mr Harik says: “We’ve taken away about 70%-80% of the
reason to file things.”
However, he believes: “It might still be worth filing e-mails related to a
specific project, where comprehensiveness (finding every single message on a
topic) was important.”
“We have a labelling system that enables you to label messages in more than
one way. Also our conversation feature enables you to see all the messages in an
Global Audience in Nov’ 04MSN Hotmail 61.25mYahoo! Mail 55.50mAOL E-mail 34.64m
Neilsen / /
(User figures cover US, Brazil, Australia, Hong Kong, UK, France,
Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Switzerland)
Google will also search users’ e-mails for keywords so that it can place
adverts in mailboxes relevant to users’ interests. On the one hand, this may
make adverts more useful. On the other – though users’ identities won’t be
revealed to advertisers – it does raise privacy concerns.
Gmail is currently available by invitation only as it is still under
development. But it recently increased the number of new users that existing
customers can invite – from 10 to 50 – suggesting it is pushing Gmail out to
Yahoo! Mail says it has developed its e-mail searching too. “This can be done
through the new prominent ‘Search Mail’ and ‘Search the Web’ buttons within the
e-mail box,” said a spokeswoman. “Enhanced searching tools have become
increasingly important as storage limits have increased.”
By contrast, the search facilities on Hotmail are quite limited only allowing
searches in the To, From and Subject fields of an e-mail and not in the text of
Moreover, since Hotmail increased the amount of free storage it offers, the
search facility sometimes won’t work at all for users with a lot of e-mails.
For now, Microsoft – which has a separate search engine it upgraded this
month – is focusing on integrating Hotmail with other Microsoft applications
like instant messaging and blogging. It is not planning to upgrade its Hotmail
search facilities, according to Mr Anderson.
Web mail storageHotmail: 250MbGmail: 1,000MbYahoo! Mail: 250 MbAOL Mail on the Web: 100MbHotmail Plus: 2000Mb(£14.99)Yahoo! Premium: 2000Mb( £11.99)
Competition may be taking its toll on Hotmail. “If we look at Europe, they
[Hotmail] actually went down from a monthly audience of 25 million users in
April 2004 to 22 million in November,” said Neilsen/NetRatings.
During the same period “Yahoo! increased by 2% from 9.6 million users a month
to nearly 9.8 million,” he added.
The number of minutes spent accessing Hotmail in Europe also fell – from 47
minutes a month in April to 38 minutes last November.
Meanwhile usage of Yahoo! Mail increased by just over 12 minutes a month to
But Mr Anderson says Hotmail is not planning to give up its dominant share of
the web e-mail market any time soon. It has recently been encouraging users to
sign up for more than one mailbox and has introduced a series of Hotmail.co.uk
mailboxes so people who missed out on getting the user name they wanted have
“We’ve put a huge effort into upgrading our 187m users,” says Mr Anderson.
“If we find people are using Hotmail as a dumping ground [for information] and
not being remotely organised, we will develop the product.
“We are determined to stay ahead.”