Bill Gates Didn't Understand Gmail

Google's Gmail is one of the very best in free webmail services. Originally thought to be an Fool's Day joke when it was announced on April 1, 2004 with its 1 GB of free storage (massive for email at the time), Gmail today has grown its storage quota for its free accounts to nearly 8 GB.

While Gmail's users loved the spaciousness and the promise by Google that nothing would ever need to be deleted again, another "Big G" – Bill Gates – didn't understand why anyone would need that much storage space.

Author Steven Levy detailed in his new book about Google, In the Plex, how he had a conversation with Gates where the Microsoft founder was puzzled by Gmail's quota.

Levy told Gates that he had already "consumed more than half of Gmail's 2-gigabyte free storage space." Gates "looked stunned, as if this offended him," as relayed by a story from the Huffington Post.

Gates supposedly asked, "How could you need more than a gig? What've you got in there? Movies? Power-Point presentations? How many messages are there? … Seriously, I'm trying to understand whether it's the number of messages or the size of messages."

The author wrote in his book, "After doing the math in his head, he came to the conclusion that Google was doing something wrong."

At that point, Gates had already signed up for a Gmail account to give it a try, so it wasn't due to unfamiliarity with the service.

"Oh sure, I play with everything… I play with A-Mail, B-Mail, C-Mail, I play with all of them," Gates apparently said, likely with a hint of jest.

While this may paint a picture of Gates of being behind the times, his point was that pure email shouldn't require an exorbitant amount of space – if the content is mostly text-based. Once you throw in attachments, then it's more than just plain email.

Of course, now even Microsoft's own Hotmail service offers 5 GB of storage as a starting point. As stated on the Live page:

Hotmail storage grows as you need it, so you shouldn't have to worry about deleting old email. You'll start with 5 GB. If you ever get close to filling that up, you'll automatically get more space. (Of course, this assumes a reasonable growth rate.)

Marcus Yam
Marcus Yam served as Tom's Hardware News Director during 2008-2014. He entered tech media in the late 90s and fondly remembers the days when an overclocked Celeron 300A and Voodoo2 SLI comprised a gaming rig with the ultimate street cred.
  • I like having the online storage. I routinely toss things up on Live's Sky Drive so I don't have to copy it to a flash drive to take it with me to work.
  • numbers of messages vs size of messages. but I wonder why not to have more if it is free?
  • ltbob
    silly gates
  • makaveli316
    what a douchebag....
  • blibba
    Levy told Gates that he had already "consumed more than half of Gmail's 2-gigabyte free storage space."
  • zkevwlu
    I've been using gmail for the better part of 4 years now. I get roughly 10-15 emails per day, mostly work related. After 4 years, I am currently sitting on only 200 megs of emails.

    So I can definitely imagine why Bill Gates would be confused.
  • verbalizer
    I kind of agree with him...
    Of course I'm not the second richest man in the world either.. LOL
  • fayzaan
    maybe one day we can share files via the emails!!! instead of using torrents or things like rapidshare etc.
  • squallypie
    my dad gets and sends close to 50-100 mails ( depending on the day ). many of them have pdf and word files. after 3 years, his mailbox has 35000 messages and his 8gb storage is full.

    He also cant find time to delete the messages so we actually have to find a way to archive the whole thing locally using a software instead of deleting manually..

    different people, different style of working, different needs....
  • dkant1n
    The email system is old, it should evolve