Gmail: Do we really want a TERABYTE of space? (a.k.a. "Be careful what you wish for…")

communication tools, google, technology

Gmail indicates a terabyte of space available.

[See other BLADAM entries on Gmail… and also, as I’ve noted earlier, please do not ask me for an invite; I don’t have any to spare… sorry! – Adam]

A number of Gmail users — including yours truly — have noticed that Gmail has seemingly upped the service storage limit to one terabyte. That’s right… 1,000,000 — one million — megabytes (compared to Hotmail’s two megabyte free storage limit, for instance). To put this into perspective… even if you got 250 e-mails each DAY (averaging four kilobytes each), it would take you about 2,739 YEARS to fill up this much space.

Of course, there’s certainly the possibility that the new indication of a terabyte of space is a Gmail bug. Gmail is, after all, still very much in beta. But what if it’s not a bug? What if the terabyte storage limit is really, well, real? Would we truly want a terabyte of space? Or would this lead to more problems than benefits?

Okay, those may sound like silly questions. After all, isn’t storage space like money… the more the better?

Maybe not.

I’m beginning to ask myself about the issue not only of diminishing returns (at what point does the space-race become a bore?), but — more importantly — whether such a huge capacity could lead to some unexpected challenges.

True, Google search is excellent. But here’s what worries me as I think about the consequences of really dumping in and keeping many tens of thousands of even the most banal / temporarily-significant e-mails into my Gmail account:

Let’s say I know I’m looking for an e-mail I got a few years ago from a woman named Jen. Or maybe Jenny. Or Jennifer. Something like that. And we were talking about going on a skiing trip together. When I have 200,000 e-mails in Gmail…

– I have to remember to specify (“Jen” OR “Jenny” OR “Jennifer”) AND (“ski” or “skiing”) since Gmail doesn’t support partial word searches (though admittedly this isn’t different from what one must do now for this sort of search).

– I may be deluged by false positives… e.g., notes from travel agents named Jen/Jenny/Jennifer, friends talking about going skiing with their fiance Jen or colleague Jenny, an article in the New York Times written by journalist Jen Smith talking about a bank robbery by someone with a ski mask, and so on.

* * *

Even in searching my own 2-gig-or-so Outlook e-mail collection nowadays with a fabulous search tool (“LookOut“), I find myself increasingly regretful that I didn’t throw away a lot of the newsletter e-mails, temporary “verify your subscription” e-mails, one word reply e-mails with a ton of quoting, and so on. Specifically, I’m starting to suspect that being a packrat — and, in particular, having the ability AND encouragement to support this habit — may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong. I still love Gmail and think that, overall, it’s a humungous step up from the miserly accounts one gets with Hotmail and Yahoo and so on. But at the same time, I wonder if people are prepared for potentially frustrating consequences of REALLY saving absolutely all their e-mails.

What do you think?

Added later the same day:
Google, please don’t vengefully remove my terabyte of storage. I may be concerned, but I’m still greedy. And at my current rate of overall mail sending/receiving, I’d fill up a gig in 440 days! :O

Added May 19, 2004 (the next day)
Oops. Be careful what you diss; looking a gift horse in the mouth may cause the horse to kick you. Er, in this case, the extra storage has gone *poof*. Bummer.

And wait… adding to the confusion… some of my friends still show a 1TB limit in their Gmail account. Hmm!

8 comments… add one
  • Dan May 18, 2004

    Okay. So I’m a dork. I decided to calculate it.

    Suppose you live 100 years from the day you get your gmail account. That’s 36,500 days [excluding leap years]. Suppose they really were to give you a terabyte of email. That’s 1 million megabytes.

    That means you get 27.4 megabytes a day.

    At 4k per email, that’s 7014.5 emails per day (because megabytes are actually 1024, not 1000). Anyway, the point is, that’s a little over 7,000 emails a day. Every day. For the rest of your life.

    I just thought you’d be interested. That’s 295 emails an hour. 4.87 emails a minute.

  • Adam May 18, 2004

    Dan, I get a lot of spam.  I mean a LOT OF SPAM (http://tinyurl.com/3y44h).  But not THAT much. 😀

  • Fred May 18, 2004

    It appeared and disappeared mysteriously on my account too. I’m afraid the most likely explanation is a bug. Unless it was a subtle form of market research.

    It’s tantalizing, though. If you could stop people from uploading their entire hard disks, could you make a business of offering unlimited capacity? By the time your average customer filled up a gigabyte with normal email, disk prices would have dropped so far that you could give them another 10 gig, and so on forever.

  • Adam May 18, 2004

    Well, I think Google could easily protect against having Gmail used as a file server simply throttling particular types of behavior (e.g., noticing when someone is uploading a number of >5 meg files in rapid succession).

    On the TB storage issue, though… it’s interesting to note that several of my friends still show a 1TB limit in their accounts.  If this is a glitch, it’s a rather strange one.

  • Vikas Thakur Jul 22, 2006

    my email is full of mails.

    I have 2.7GB Mail Size,how can i Increase it

  • Mark Mar 10, 2008

    Hi Adam,
    You have raised interesting point.
    But actually now a days, lots of spamming activities are take place.
    Some times i need to delete all this mails, i’d almost full my Gmail in box in 2 years of timing.

  • SEO Florida Aug 20, 2008

    i don’t think we need that much amount of mail space. Terabyte its not at all required. It’s good to have 5 GB mail space. and i am happy with what Google is delivering right now.

  • ewitttas Dec 25, 2009

    I have enough free space, after receive all junk mail which i delete.

What do you think?