Announced on April 1, 2004 with an unprecedented 1GB of user storage, many assumed that Gmail was just one of Google’s April Fools’ pranks. For comparison, competing services only had 2 to 4MB for users to store email messages and attachments. Currently, Gmail storage is combined with that of other Google products with 15GB available for free.
Gmail was released in beta with an invite system and was not open to the general public until February 2007. In July of 2009, it finally dropped its beta status. As of February 2016, Gmail is the most widely used web email provider with 1 billion active users worldwide.
Besides email, Gmail has a number of features, including integration with Google Drive for sending large attachments and choosing images from Google Photos. Users can fully search their email with advanced spam filtering and labels to manage messages. Google also scans emails to show context-related advertisements.
Since launch, the email service has gone through a number of redesigns. Apps are available for Android, iOS, and the mobile web.