January 22, 2022

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You Might Have to Pay for Gmail. You Always Did.—Data Sheet

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You Might Have to Pay for Gmail. You Always Did.—Data Sheet


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You may have read some scary headlines this week, the week before Halloween, about Gmail. It’s the free email service with over 1.5 billion users that probably far too many of us depend on for all our personal online communication needs. Despite the season, though, I’m here to tell you it will all be okay.

The scare was that Google was going to start “making us pay” for Gmail. It’s certainly a potential revenue source of great depth. If just 10% of Gmail users coughed up $100 a year, that would be $15 billion. Even for a giant like Google, with revenue of $75 billion in the first half of this year, that’s a significant sum. On the other hand, it might deter people from using Gmail, hitting advertising revenue in ways not obvious to those outside the company.

But there’s one big problem with the scare story: Gmail has never been totally free. Google always limited the amount of storage for your mail and attachments and charged if you wanted more.

It’s true that the limit for free storage hasn’t been raised since 2013, when the ‘Plexers said we could stash 15 GB of digital detritus across Gmail, Drive, and Photos without charge. But it’s also true that the amount Google charges for extra storage has been falling over time. Today you can get 100 GB of cloud storage for $20 year (that I remember paying $150 for a 400 megabyte hard drive once is just crazy). At 20 cents a gig, Google’s plan is just a little cheaper than Apple’s intro 50 GB plan that works out to 24 cents a gig. Both giants will also sell you a whopping 2 TB, enough to store an estimated 170 million pages of Word documents, for $100 or $120. You don’t know me very well if you don’t know that’s the plan I’m on (just call me Packrat Pressman).

But actually how much storage do you need for Gmail? My 14 years of personal email and whatnot, including some 18,000 messages in my primary in-box, are currently consuming a grand total of 5.66 GB. By the way, want to freak yourself out? Click on the email counter on the top right side of the Gmail page and choose to sort mail by oldest first. Baby pictures of the kids, notes from old flames, who knows what you’ll find? Google has a whole support doc with advice for clearing out that tangled mess.

The scare story cropped up because Google did cut off one kind of free storage, sort of. Pixel phone buyers used to be able to keep unlimited photos in full quality stored with Google. Now with the Pixel 4, the free storage is only for somewhat compressed versions of your photos. But cutting one free thing, even sort of, doesn’t make a trend. So we’re back to 2013, I guess.

Today’s Data Sheet comes courtesy of another Google freebie, of sorts. I’m trying out the new Pixelbook Go laptop for an upcoming review. Send me any questions or concerns you have about the newest Chromebook and I’ll be back to you with more details soon.

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman

Email: [email protected]

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