During yesterday's first earnings call for Alphabet, Google’s recently formed parent company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had good news about his company. During the call, Pichai said that Gmail, Google’s free e-mail service, has joined several other Google products in boasting 1 billion active monthly users.
That was just a day after a surge in Alphabet shares gave it a market valuation of $533.4 billion, surpassing Apple's valuation of $532.7 billion to make Alphabet the world’s most valuable company.
The only acknowledgment of the milestone was an expression of gratitude via Twitter. "Thanks a billion for helping us make Gmail better and better."
The announcement of the Gmail milestone came only nine months after the e-mail service hit 900 million monthly users, meaning it’s still growing quickly. Gmail is the seventh service owned Google to hit 1 billion active monthly users, joining Search, the Chrome browser, the Android mobile operating system, Google Play, Google Maps and YouTube.
Facebook, by comparison, has only two products with more than a billion users, including the flagship Facebook network and WhatsApp. Facebook’s chat app, Facebook Messenger, has more than 800 million users, however.
How to explain Gmail’s ubiquity, which shows no signs of slowing down? Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, told us that Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo all have large e-mail installed bases. Plus, Gmail is free and it’s simple.
"Google’s rise and sustained popularity was driven in in the 2000s thanks in part to their tie to Web search, saved bookmarks, and the promise of unlimited storage space," noted Moorhead. "Consumers mobbed to the ‘free’ nature of the service although they received ads in their inbox, which didn’t seem to make too big a difference to user stickiness."
Gmail beta was launched in 2004 and ceased to be called beta in 2009. In the last decade, the e-mail service has become a favorite among individuals as well as businesses. Gmail became the most popular e-mail service in the world in 2012, reporting around 425 million monthly users at that time. Gmail’s Android app reached a billion installs not quite two years ago.
Gmail has maintained its popularity, in part, because Google regularly introduces new wrinkles to the app. Two years ago it launched the Inbox by Google mobile app, an e-mail client that simplifies the process of avoiding spam and other undesirable e-mails.
And last year, Google introduced its Smart Reply feature for Gmail users, which lets mobile users respond quickly with the help of auto-generated suggested messages. Pichai said that Smart Replies account for 10 percent of replies by way of the Gmail mobile app.
Image credit: Google/Gmail, Artist's concept.