The service is paid for by advertisers; google uses an automated bot to read your saved emails (the higher storage capacity means it has more mails to read) and uses keywords it finds in the emails you are viewing to deliver targeted text ads that follow you up and down the page. This slight downfall however is more than compensated for by the vast amounts of storage space, and unheard of attachment size limits.
In short, gmail is über all other free email services. Some websites, such as www.gmailswap.com have taken the pursuit of these much coveted email accounts to the next level by letting users bargain or more often beg and grovel for invites.
The following example is an i-seek explination of the gmail service and it's effect on other free email providers as was presented four months ago, in July of 2004:
Upon receiving a mystifying e-mail from the Hotmail Staff signifying an upcoming substantial increase in storage and attachment limits, I was immediately suspicious of the veracity of such an unexplainably generous change. Considering that this was in fact a Microsoft owned service, a gratis increase in functionality and convenience was not something I was about to acknowledge unconscientiously. Initially I simply dismissed the concept, and even sent out some e-mail clones of the original message to various people with intent to ridicule it. While the sincerity of the proclamation is still to be established, a knowledgeable individual recently filled me in on the probable reasoning behind it. What he told me led me to believe that not only was it a legitimate Hotmail announcement – but that it could very well be true.
While the conversation pertaining to the whole e-mail upgrade was indeed brief, I managed to derive a fair amount of enlightening information from it. Needless to say, numerous questions are still left unanswered – Many of which I will be seeking the answers to in these upcoming weeks. I can only imagine that many of you currently-wired individuals may already know more about it than I do; but for those of you who don’t, the following is what I know now.
A new free e-mail service (possibly to be provided by google) is now undergoing beta trial. The service (which my contact referred to only as ‘G-mail’) would provide up to (and possibly exceeding) 100 times the storage and attachment space of the typical free e-mail service. I am still unaware of the other features that might be included. If such a service were to be launched successfully in the near future, it would make sense to see other providers suddenly make a move to prevent their users from abandoning them as rats abandon a sinking ship. A sudden increase of value would be necessary to keep users – such a reaction could bring free internet services to a completely new echelon as providers fight to keep from joining the ranks of the obsolete.