When it comes to email for both consumers and businesses alike, Google’s “Gmail” service (and the sister product “Google Apps”) is really hard to beat.  Gmail offers a feature-rich suite that isn’t bogged down with big flashy ads or a clunky intrusive interface.  Simply put, Gmail lets users focus on the task at hand; sending and receiving email.

When Gmail was first introduced to the public as a invite-only beta product, one of the big selling points for the service was the amount of free storage that it offered to end users.  While it wasn’t uncommon to see email providers at the time offer a measly 200mb of storage, Google went all-out by handing out 1gb (1024mb) to all users.  Sure, that’s nothing compared to what they offer now, but for the time 1gb was simply unbelievable.

As time went on, Google continuously upped the inbox capacity for Gmail users.  Today every single Gmail account gets a standard inbox capacity just under seven and a half gigabytes.  But although a far jump from what the service offered only a matter of years ago, Gmail’s capacity is no longer an outstanding feature for the service.  Other free email providers like Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and even America Online have all implemented “unlimited” storage for some time now; a theoretical one-up to Gmail’s generous storage offering.

But this leaves some to wonder; if these quite arguably lesser-quality email services can (and are quite willing to) offer “unlimited” storage, why can’t (or doesn’t) Gmail do the same?

If you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve used the term “unlimited” in quotes a few times already in this article because the common interpretation of “unlimited” seems to differ significantly from what email providers define “unlimited” as.

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For example, Yahoo’s list of features for their email service says (at time of writing) that the “unlimited storage” is “consistent with Yahoo! Mail terms of service.”  So what do the terms of service say?

Yahoo! may also impose limits on certain features and services or restrict your access to parts or all of the Services or other Yahoo! services or web sites without notice or liability.

A far cry from your definition of “unlimited”, isn’t it?  So while Google doesn’t advertise “unlimited” storage, I for one appreciate the fact that the company is at least more upfront about the imposed limitations; limitations which should never become a problem for most people.

Moreover, Google is also upfront about the fact that the storage allowances for Gmail users is constantly “counting”, meaning that the company helps to offset the increased use in storage with increased allowances.  Of course this storage doesn’t grow at the quickest rate, but I know that long-time Gmail users remember the larger chunks of free storage that Google has given out periodically, like the time back in 2007.

And really, we have to consider that Google is a company and that when all is said and done they are out to make a profit, which they are more than entitled to.  So what interest would they have in giving out unlimited free storage when the costs of doing so would likely outweigh the profits they make in ads?

Google makes it incredibly easy (and cost-effective) for users with special high-demand needs to upgrade their storage capacities.  After all, it only makes sense for users to pay for what they use, doesn’t it?

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Really, I flat-out hate the term “unlimited” because it’s really a shady and deceptive way to do business and advertise products.  “Unlimited” web hosting and “unlimited” storage is simply a joke.  So while Gmail has limited storage, I personally respect the company for being upfront about it instead of fooling users into using their services only to turn around and attack them for violating terms of service agreements and acceptable use and abuse policies that most people don’t even read.

My opinion?  Keep the limits and keep the clarity.  I’d look down on Google if they pulled the “unlimited” card.

What are your thoughts?  Would you like to see Google adapt “unlimited” policies even if it were to create a “gray area” in the terms of service, or do you prefer the clear limitations that Google currently uses?  Let us know in the comments!


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