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Gmail: a short, sharp rant

Not evil, just arrogant

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This story starts with me being furious. "I was bloody furious when my email provider suddenly, and without warning, started bouncing incoming messages." You would be, wouldn't you?

Call me fussy, but I've been told this is the sort of thing which can give a small, struggling ISP a lasting bad reputation. My email provider?

Google.

Yes, I'm a life-long* Gmail user and have been telling people how much better it is than Toytown free mail systems like Hotmail or Yahoo!. And when I signed up, it certainly was - offering enough storage (a gigabyte, wow - at that time Hotmail and Yahoo! were clogging up if you had 10 megs in your inbox) that they were able to say "never delete an email again".

But the situation here was quite unequivocal. A friend rang up and said: "I sent you that email, and I've just got a message from Google saying:

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error.

I have to delete mail before I can receive more. Why wasn't I told? Indeed, why should I have to? I can remember the ballyhoo of Gmail's launch: "Never delete an email again." And indeed, if I log onto my account, I see the blurb there: "Who needs to delete when you have over 2000 MB of storage?"

That's the message showing in my gmail account right now, but I still have to delete stuff.

It's a cockup. The problem is very simple indeed: Gmail was set up as a browser-based mail service. You go to http://gmail.com and log in, and as you log in it shows you how much spare space you have. Excellent! - except that since then, Google added a new feature to mail: POP3 email collection.

This means you can tell your Thunderbird or Outlook program where to collect the mail. That means you can carry on using email, even if you're offline. Wonderful... except that when you look at your Thunderbird inbox, there's no message about how much spare space you have.

It's a really simple thing to fix. All Google has to do is arrange for a warning to be sent to POP3 users when the mailbox fills up. It's a small story, not many dead: so, I will write the (brief, but worth-recording-for-posterity) story for El Reg. It should take all of 10 minutes.

Here's what is supposed to happen:-

  1. I ring up the Google press office, and tell them what I've found
  2. They say "Oh, wow! I'm sure the tech people will get onto that. Would you like a chat with someone on the team?"
  3. I write a positive-spin piece saying: "Small problem quickly fixed: Google mail gets better and better!" - going on to say that there was a small problem for POP3 users, and they're on the case, and quoting a reassuringly expert developer saying how easy it will be to fix and how it will be done in days...

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