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Ads in Gmail displayed as normal emails? (twitter.com/gulliantonio)
358 points by ot on July 19, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 261 comments

So this is why they wanted to "help us" sort out our inbox? I feel defrauded into believing their motivation.

Like suddenly realizing I was given a lift solely because my presence in the car allowed the driver to enter my estate or place of work.

This is wrong.

"This is wrong."

If you read their earnings release from yesterday[1], you will see this gem "Average cost-per-click, which includes clicks related to ads served on Google sites and the sites of our Network members, decreased approximately 6% over the second quarter of 2012 and decreased approximately 2% over the first quarter of 2013." If you aren't careful you might think that is a "good thing" Gee it cost them 6% less to get a click? No, that isn't the definition you should use [2] the price they got per click went down. So when you get less per click, well you make it up in volume (which they did with a 23% increase in paid clicks).

What that means in simple terms is that the business unit that makes about 10x the revenue of all other Google businesses combined, is showing weakness. And Google is responding as they must, by increasing the opportunity you have to click on ads, as the price per click is a market thing (there are others who are offering ad channels).

This is the fundamental around all of the changes Google is putting in place in their properties (keeping you on their SERP, making everything G+, wrapping your experience in IOS around their applications).

I don't think the changes you are seeing are "wrong", I think they are inevitable.

[1] http://investor.google.com/earnings/2013/Q2_google_earnings....

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay_per_click

is it possible their cpc went down because they've overwhored themselves and not the other way around? I seem to recall a shit ton of changes to SERPs preceding and during the periods mentioned.

Absolutely, but Google runs experiments all the time. If underwhoring would boost their CPC then those experiments will surface that fact. That it hasn't suggested to me that alternatives have cut into their margins. Since nobody likes to cede margin, they can either ride it into the ground (a common response) or change. Either way it will be different.

might be inevitable for Google. Might not be for another clever service provider, or might not be for a paying-solution.

Either way, Gmail is going down with things like that. Internet is one space where people can choose not to have ads, and nobody likes ads.

I agree but I suspect the choices are subscriptions or ads. As the Internet has matured the 'free' option is going away. Developers of course will be able to fund their own infrastructure (sort of a self subscribe model :-) but the 'free' internet is definitely going away.

> the 'free' internet is definitely going away.

I really don't see that, we still have a huge number of free application. Maybe google is having some issues (google reader and gmail) but you still have a huge number of alternatives that are still free.

Who fucking cares. Google sucks now. Gmail sucks now. I am aborting all Gmail related accounts post-haste.

I may as well be using AOL. Those stupid tabs, and retarded categories are bullshit. The exact kind of noisy, cluttered, shitty interface I'd expect from any other e-mail service.

Fuck them in the ear.

This response made me actually laugh out loud, mostly because of the delivery combined with it's accuracy in alluding to something very important:

We often seem to look at an issue from the other's point of view and deem it wrong or okay based on that. Why? Why not look at these situations that affect us directly from our point of view? Sometimes all that matters is you. This is one of those times.

Also: note the originating username.

I don't disagree with you, but it took me all of 2 seconds to disable the new tabs. I haven't seen any of the ads mentioned in the original tweet, so maybe this is a solution?

To do it: Hit the Plus sign at the edge of the tabs, and uncheck everything except Primary. You'll be displayed a message saying that you disabled the new tabs.

Bravo sir, bravo. Not sure why you felt the need to create a throwaway account for it as it is a completely valid point of view. To completely capture the meme though a "and git off my lawn!" is needed there at the end :-)

As for your rhetorical question about who cares, I'm guessing the folks who've seen Google stock go from $600 to $900 are wondering if its time to switch to something else. If you're anonymous opinion is common among their users then the answer to their question would be "yes, definitely."

> they wanted to "help us" sort out our inbox?

As long as it stays in "promotions" tab, I could care less, as this is where they belong. If that's the case that's actually a smart move to introduce in-maillist ads without polluting the "real" inbox.

As soon as they flow out of that bucket, we're entering Twitter's dickbar levels of dorkiness.

I still have to keep all of my inboxes at zero. Every inbox must still be checked in case there is something mis-directed. I go out of my way to unsubscribe from most promotions, so no, even in the promotions box this is not welcome for me.

You can disable all the tabs and return to your normal inbox.

That, unfortunately, doesn't seem to work on the Android client (did that for the webapp). I'd give the app a bad rating for becoming more and more crappy, but I have no G+ account, cannot have a G+ account and therefor are unable to participate..

I disabled it on the web client and those labels do not appear on the Android app for me.

Additionally, you can disable the promotions tab individually. I just have "Updates" and "Forums". For now, it seems very easy to opt out.

For now.

Which is where we currently live, so that's good.

I think people are mad because it seems inevitable that, like all other new Gmail features/UI changes/etc., it will become mandatory within less than a year.

How do you do that?

Click on the + sign next to the tabs. Uncheck everything except "Primary" (which you can't uncheck anyway)

You know what's funny? You do that and when you look there are still unread things in there that it pulls from the inbox. Once you dispose of them in the inbox, they do disappear, though.

There's actually a number of different inbox layouts available in Settings.

This was my reaction to the tabs as well - now I have three inboxes to keep clean instead of one! I disabled them as soon as I could figure out how to.

If you are following an inbox zero approach (as I am), then there's not much point in using the sectioned inbox IMO. I guess it might be useful if you receive tons of email and you want to sort of go through it in an ordered manner, but normally I tend to unsubscribe from things I am not interested in, so there are little or no messages in the other sections.

I do inbox zero as implied above and I thought I'd hate the sectioned tabs but I actually love it. Only because I make sure the primary inbox is cleared constantly, but can take my time getting to the social one (where it's very easy to just select all and delete).

I'm not sure that your OCD is their problem.

On the contrary, they take advantage of this kind of behavior to ensure that he sees their ads. It's a problem they created and exacerbate for their own profit.

This is the whole point of 'gamification.' Dropping a number back down to zero is a form of this.

Total # of emails however can be setup to show only your "Primary" inbox. This allows me to check the other tabs much much less often since I'm only motivated to keep the # to 0.

One step further: If I'm in the "promotions" tab, then I'm actively looking for deals. So if Google can come up with promotions that interest me, then I'll welcome this new change.

It's not like they're spamming our other inboxes. It's just the promotions inbox.

The promotions tab is NOT where you go to actively look for deals. You do that on Groupon.

The promotion tab is where you get promotional emails from services that you have OPTED IN to receive emails from.

So is it far game if the Viagra emails only appear in the promotion's tab?

Google is sending spam (unsolicited emails). That is all there is s to say about it.

> The promotions tab is NOT where you go to actively look for deals. You do that on Groupon.

Is that a joke?

The detractors are just here to bash unashamed.

This really makes a lot of sense. You have pretty overt ads displayed, and deletable, within a tab devoted to ads. It's pretty much the best scenario imaginable for an ad supported service.

One could argue that signing up for a Google service is enough to form a "business relationship" with them. Just like how if you buy a new pair of rocket skis from ACME, you're likely to get promotional email from them featuring sales on anvils.

In which case I'm sure Google will provide an unsubscribe option.

It already has, it's called Delete Account

Google is not sending spam. If you use IMAP, those never show up. Google is making it appear that there are emails there.

The trouble is they shove a pile of your real mail in there too, unless you go to disable the tab.

Did you pay for it?


Quit complaining, pay for it (Google Apps), or move on.

I don't think I buy this idea, and I don't think most honest developers would either. People want to know when their users aren't happy with their service, and they especially want to know if they're feeling alienated.

I think this is always a confusion point. Prior to the internet "user" and "customer" were pretty much synonymous. Now they can be entirely different. Users get confused when they miss this critical distinction.

No, everything is not new on the internet. Historically, this has always been the Media business model (newspaper, radio, TV, magazines, etc). Editors have balanced users and customers for a 100+ years.

Yes I agree. Good point.

That is true for most cases, but when shareholders and business come into the picture, the honest developers don't get a look in. It's shut up or don't get paid.

If Google lost 25% of its free userbase and converted only 10% of that 25% into Google Apps customers, and left the other 75% with advertising clicks it's a win situation for the business and shareholders.

Google is not immune to capitalism or business mantra unfortunately.

For reference, as an idealist and a bit of a Marxist, I'm not a fan of this but it's the way it is at the moment.

I'm letting them occupy a piece of my screen real estate and grab a share of my personal attention every day. I consider that a form of payment.

Now they're coming up with this massive price hike, putting us in a position to choose between accepting a higher price and spending a lot of time moving our data elsewhere. Many people don't even know how to move existing email to a different provider.

So this is definitely something we can legitimately complain about.

Your screen is only payment if they can put something they want there.

They always could put what they wanted on parts of the screen. Now they want wastly bigger or more expensive parts of tjat screen.

So if something doesn't cost you money, you have no business complaining about something you don't like? Weird logic. If someone offers something under any terms, it seems ok to me to say what I think of it. Your position seems to be that if it's free, it's illegitimate to comment on it.

The point is you get what you give. If you want a "better" service, it's going to cost you. There's no such thing as a free lunch.

There is a difference between a service monetized by Ads, and a service which tries to trick you into clicking on Ads.

Agreed. I think it's a little naive to think that a free service doesn't have to make money.

But! Without users Google won't have a business at all. So they should be careful with disruptive advertisement.

Twitter ads look like tweets, Facebook ads look like Facebook posts, and of course search ads look like search results, at least in Gmail they have their own designated area.

They replace the webclip ads when the "promotions" tab is enabled: http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2013/06/ads-in-gmails-promo...

So far, Google hasn't shown ads in search results that look like other search results though. This seems like a shift for them.

While they were never exactly the same visually, they show up under the search field, have the same link and text structure...the only difference in the lightly shaded background

I'm not sure if it's my imagination, but the shading seems to have gotten a lot lighter. It used to be quite clear what was a search ad and what was a result, but now you have to look closely.

There's really no way to know that unless you work for Google. Some of the ads show up with a shaded background, maybe some of them don't?

That is basically the original meaning of "don't be evil", or at least the one used in the IPO documents.

You would probably know, since it's hard to sell ads like that without telling people.

> Uses free product from a company thats only profit comes from advertisements and selling user data

and yet you're surprised and upset when they use that free product to show you ads… please don't tell me you actually fell for that "Don't be evil" BS

What's "evil" about following the exact same business model that you've been following all along? It's not like they sneaked this up on us. It is public knowledge what they do for revenue. They provide you with simple ways to migrate your data off the service if you're displeased with it. You can connect to your inbox via IMAP and read your mail without seeing the ads (unless these new ads will be sent to that inbox, in which case even I would think that's going too far).

Is it so hard for people to get that some people actually understand that what Google sells is personalized ads based on what they know about us, and actually consider it a fair trade for the services we receive in return? Not everyone is ignorant about this. We just don't care.

Email used to be fun, then spammers came, then good email providers added spam filters and made email fun again, now email providers are sending us spam. The circle is almost complete.

> now email providers are sending us spam

Mine isn't.

Get used to it: if you aren't paying for the service, you're not their client and they are not your provider. You're their product.

It's not pretty, but sadly this is how life tends to work :-).

Sadly? Just because there are free options, it does not mean you have to use them. Personally, I'm quite happy that it works like that, it does not bother me in the slightest, and I get a good service in change. I realise this might not be ideal for everyone though.

So I pay for Cable and I still have to watch endless commercials. Paying for something doesn't guarantee anything.

What do you use? Better yet, what's an alternative to Google Apps I can use for my domain?

Fastmail[1] is looking very nice, very fast and makes Google look like a bloated pig.

The prices too are similar to Google apps, but I'm not sure I'm going to move all my stuff there (Google Docs at least needs a competitor).

I've yet to decide if I'm going full scale when I'm through my free trial.

[1] http://fastmail.fm/

I've been using fastmail for two or three years, not sure. They're a very good service for a surprisingly small amount of money.

I see anywhere from zero to two spams in my inbox per day. I just move them over to my learn spam folder.

I just checked, and I have 270 spam messages in my junk folder since July 1.

I use their https web interface at work, not bad, nothing special. I use thunderbird over imap at home.

So in exchange for about $10 or $20 per year (depends on your service level), and the occasional need to tell fastmail "this message is spam, remember that for similar messages," I get an excellent imap service that is not gmail and not google. I'm a customer, not a product, and I'm very happy.

EDIT: corrected how many junk I have. It's 270 since July 1. It's about 1000 since June 22. They delete junk after awhile. I just combed through the 1000 and moved 9 into the "this is not junk, remember that" folder.

I looked at Fastmail recently, but then I saw the Opera logo and hesitated. I want to know what would happen to them if Opera cannot maintain profitability. I'd like to know my mail provider is going to stick around a while.

Fastmail has been around since 1999, I think it's going to be okay.

Sorry, this is really not a coherent comment. I rambled.

It's a fair question though. Despite the "If you don't pay for it…" mantra that people like to spout off, situations like Sparrow and other paid services shutting down tend to worry me. And I know, it's odd, considering Gmail is free and Google as a tendency to shut things down (but I don't see them shutting down Gmail).

I guess the issue is that if I pay for it, I'm investing time and money into something I want to know will stick around. And because I'm a customer, I feel like I'm empowered to believe that. After all, if a company is charging me X amount, I think that charge should be related to keeping themselves in business. I hate the idea of a company that charges not being able to stay afloat because of their low prices. It's not even giving me a choice as a customer to pay more to ensure their service remains.

But here's the issue: Fastmail themselves may have been able to keep running indefinitely, but they're not Fastmail anymore. They're Fastmail from Opera. If Opera shuts down, what's the guarantee that they will let their purchases keep running?

Basically, since they sold themselves to Opera, they're at Opera's mercy to keep running. If Opera shuttered their doors or if Opera felt like pulling a Google Reader, there goes my mail provider. I'm iffy on the future of Opera as a company, which means I'm iffy on the future of everything they own regardless of that product's history.

At the very least (assuming the division is not operating at a loss) I think it would likely be sold off or spun out as a separate entity before opera shutdown.

Google had been around for over 10 years when it started doing bad things with its services too.

They sold to Opera, so clearly it wasn't sustainable by itself.

Actually, they were doing fine but they weren't able to grow.

Not to be rude, but "doing fine but they weren't able to grow" sounds like PR bizspeak for "unable to sustain themselves". It isn't like Opera is a company that can really grow Fastmail when they haven't even done that with their browser. I don't see how you could particularly trust Fastmail to be around for an extended period when they were recently sold to company few would consider stable and healthy.

Then again, I don't really see the point of not using Fastmail as long as you can export your stuff.

They explain the rationale for selling in a couple blog posts. They were a really small company, only 3 or 4 guys. They didn't have any "PR bizspeak" people. They were profitable for 10 years but didn't have the resources to expand into business accounts. It sounded like the meeting with Opera people was kind of a fluke.

It's the same reason I don't switch apartments even though one might be better for the money: it's a hassle.

> "we have standard servers and a high speed connection in the US." - https://www.fastmail.fm/help/overview_about.html

so that's a non-starter then, for someone looking to escape the snooping that makes Gmail annoying.

That pricing is totally feasible. I've run large Exchange implementations where a large mailbox costs around $50/year, and a small webmail costs around $20-25.

That was a few years ago, based on Exchange 2007 and 2010 -- meaning using fibre channel SAN for storage, tape backups, F5, etc. If you implemented today with Exchange 2013, you'd probably be able to cut costs 30% or more. There are a ton of costs areas embedded in there.

If you're operating a simple (ie. no calendar, no hooks into other services) service with custom code, open source infrastructure, and no (or minimal) external licensing, you can absolutely offer a $5/year 100MB mailbox profitably. They are making higher margins on the enhanced plans as well.

Probably should have mentioned free alternatives as I've signed up with Google Apps for business prior to December 2012. Also, it's still free if you use Google Education.

So, any free alternatives to Google Apps for my domain?

The free internet fest is over. sorry.

Sounds like an opportunity.

Since I use Google Apps for my email, I could easily move my mail to another service without telling people my new address but Fastmail doesn't seem to support using your own domain. Do you know any service like Fastmail but with domain support?

Edit: The "family" package offers this: https://www.fastmail.fm/signup/family.html

Edit Again: I should have poked around more, it's included in the personal package too.

Do they have support for Gmails keyboard commands?

I don't use them, so I wouldn't know.

Well, thanks anyways. =)

Since I asked it, someone posted this to HN:


Which seems to suggest that it does have keyboard shortcuts. Not sure if they are the same as Gmails, but it's encouraging.

And, decided to actually just do a search, because, well yeah. I should. I discovered this:


Which from my initial review, seems to cover the shortcuts I routinely use!

Hopefully this helps others.

I've been running my own mail, jabber and www server for over three years now, and I am extremely happy with it. If anybody is interested in my setup and/or would like to run their own, I'll be happy to write a quick guide/howto.

Me too! I'll soon be buying a small home server and I am still wondering how to begin building my setup, since I've never used anything else than FTP hosting.

I would be very interested in a quick how to guide.

Office 365.

As long as Gmail's spam filter catches Google's own spam as well everything is fine ;-)

I've trained Gmail to put my G+ Instant Upload Share notification into the spam box. It has a link on the email to manage subscriptions, I turned off every god damn email option in G+ yet I still get "You have X photos to share". I maybe shared 1% of the photos I take, like picasa before it I use G+ as a cloud back up of my photos.

You must have missed the right checkbox. I turned it off once, never got another email.

I, on the other hand, am happy. It is the same thing as the NSA working as my email backup provider.

Changes like these give growth to new/alternative businesses.

> NSA working as my email backup provider

Backups are only useful if you are able to restore from them.

You know you just gave me an idea. The government asks you to store data with them so they do not have to go behind your back to get it and in exchange you get a backup with them that you can restore from.

To be honest, I've thought of Google for the last few years as what the NSA would become if it were were privatized and publicly listed. PRISMail might even be ad free!

edit: clarity


>Changes like these give growth to new/alternative businesses.

I totally dig this perspective. From now on, my opinion is that Google makes this changes to promote entrepreneurship. Love it.

I suggest Fastmail. I switched a few months back and haven't missed GMail yet. YMMV, but you owe it to yourself to give it a look.

Really looking forward to see fun spam closing the loop

Horace Dediu's (asymco) graph of Googles rapidly declining margins probably illustrates why Google is now resorting to this sort of thing.


And related post.


Anyone have an idea what is happening to their margins by the way? Who is competing against the same ad dollars as Google (FB seems a bit different), if cost per click is going down, why?

I think they are like any other big industrial company.

They build out factories (datacenters, networks, etc) based on a projection of long-term growth. Once you start missing those growth targets, it's like compounded interest... the impact of a small miss in year 1 has a big impact on the year 5 bottom line.

They have a few issues IMO:

- The market is saturated... how many more tiny classified ads can you sell?

- The "less sophisticated" users who click on ads use Bing -- the Windows default.

- There are real competitors out there... Bing, Facebook, etc.

- They piss off their hardcore users too much. Google+: enough said.

Also, because mobile has less space for adword ads.

The explanation I'd heard was that more people are using mobile devices and ads are less effective there.

I would guess it's mobile/tablets. I rarely see tasteful advertising geared towards that space, and "regular" pages shown on a mobile phone force me to zoom in on content and scroll past ads.

While Im not sure my Karma would withstand a defense of this, if one must have adverts, isn't sliding them in to the email list a better use of screen real estate, compared to big blocks of in your face adverts? Assuming these advmails are clearly marked as such.

I dont like it, and I'm not really a gmail user (I have an account as a sort of throw away),but this does seem better than yahoo's big blocks of ads. Although, I do block those.

On the other hand, is this not just way that gmail can defeat traditional ad-blocking? Easier to block some nasty flash ad than it is to filter email?

They take up more conscious space. You have to parse them more carefully if they are right in the middle of the content that you actually want. Those big blocks of in your face adverts don't require any attention at all and they it's trivial to use your brains inbuilt adblock to filter them out.

So, if one must have adverts, the usual form factor is vastly preferred. Especially if the alternative is trying to masquerade spam as legit content.

I'd love for Google to work out how much money they make from me in a year, and then to offer to go ad-free for 50% more than that.

At least then I could make an informed decision.

The problem is if Google were to do that, the value of their ads would plummet since the kind of people who would pay to opt out of ads are the same people who would be most likely to pay for things in ads.

Not 100% sure but I think this is is the same reason TV companies don't want to offer their content for streaming online, and Hulu can't remove ads for its premium users.

I'd say it's exactly the reverse. The people who are most bothered by ads are the people to whom the ads provide the lowest value, and are thus the least likely to click them. For example, me.

I tend to agree with this. I rarely, if ever, click on ads because they seem interesting. I mostly see an ad and say "oh that is interesting, I was searching for cars before and now I'm being advertised cars on a music site, how completely useless".

The truth is I think Google's adsense business has never had any real true value to customers (except for perhaps their 'first page at the top' paid ads, I use them a lot, mostly because I figure companies willing to pay for ads usually are a likely 'proper solid business').

Most of the adsense these days is 'trick next buttons', where people put them at the bottom of a page that appears to be the 'next page' button, and it's not.

I spend absolute craptonnes of money of stuff I don't need. Internet advertisements I am exposed to contribute almost zero impact to my purchasing habits.

Except for Belroy wallets. I have no idea how they figured to target me ('hipster' programmer?), but I did end up buying a wallet from them when their ads followed me around for a while. And their products are nice :) But that is it!

I couldn't care less if they are giving backdoors to the NSA to all my email including all company crap that is confidential and all. If they put ads into my email I will look elsewhere unless there is a paid option.

>The truth is I think Google's adsense business has never had any real true value to customers.

I doubt that adsense has positive overall value to advertisers either. Weigh the amount you spend on the ads against the amount of profit you get from the revenue resulting from that advertising. Some people will be able to make it work but I really don't think it's a large percentage.

According to Wikipedia Google made $42 billion in adwords revenue in 2012. That's like $6 from each person on the planet.

Do adwords really have enough power to increase operating profit by that much?

When I was in high school, I worked for a farmer whose primary product was hay, as he was getting old for dairy. He was able to correlate the value of $1 investment in advertising (mostly weekly newspapers and ads at horse facilities) to sales. He used a pencil, penknife (for sharpening) and a bound marble notebook from the drugstore to do this.

At the end of the day, there may be businesses blowing useless dollars on advertising, but businesses that don't watch their dollars don't tend to last very long.

> Weigh the amount you spend on the ads against the amount of profit you get from the revenue resulting from that advertising.

I'm kind of assuming that every company doing advertising is continually making that calculation, and deciding that it does come out in their favour. Otherwise we wouldn't see nearly so much advertising.

I tend to assume the reason why we see so much advertising is because they _don't_ make that calculation.

That would be true for the old media. OTOH, online advertising is extremely data-oriented, especially in the US. Most business decisions are based on data. Businesses may be using wrong models or assumptions about the correlation or causation between advertising and revenue, but there is a very strong effort to analyze data for revenue growth.

disclaimer: i worked at Google

Actually, Google display network, that is the other side of Adsense brings immense value to advertisers. I don't know exact statistics, however I estimate that the number of advertisers using display network for the immdediate or nearly-immediate conversion is in double digits.

For most of them it is mathematically proven through conversion attribution and simple calculations that advertising on display network is profitable for their business.

As a fellow "hipster programmer", I was also enticed by the Bellroy wallet ads...

They showed up when I was in the market for a wallet and were exactly what I needed. Love mine, but seeing your post was kind of eerie.

Whether you pay to opt out of ads is a function of how much you hate ads and how willing you are to spend money in general. I think the latter factor is more significant.

Your premise is at least partially fallacious - whether or not I am willing to spend money anyway, is not the same as whether or not I am influenced by advertising.

If I spend money in the same way as I would have spent anyway, then the advertising has been a waste of time.

Why are people who hate ads more likely to be influenced by them?

People who can't tune out ads are most likely to be both influenced by, and aggravated by, them. People with "banner blindness" might not complain about your ad, but they're not worth a penny to the advertisers.

I think op means people with enough money to pay to turn ads off. People with money are the people advertisers want to target. Even if the person doesn't like ads the right one could still catch their eye.

If I find an advert song to be catchy or memorable I go out my way to avoid that product to such a severe extent that it really irritates me if something I use or like is advertised. It has me wondering how I'll ever manage without X.

By offering to pay you've identified as someone who pays for things making you more valuable to google, thereby increasing what you should pay to Google if you want to go ad free. Then google could offer a bidding war to advertisers to pay more than what your paying to get ads back. Then you have to pay more than that. Until an equilibrium is reached.

Maybe. I sometimes don't even notice there are ads there because I ignore them so completely. I think you'd have to study the matter further.

Presumably Google would consider that when calculating the OP's comment of "how much money they make from me".

Wow, never thought of it this way..

Just sign up for paid google apps. No ads there what so ever. It's $50 per year.

$50 per year per person.

As I run a Google Apps domain for my family, that would be several hundred dollars per year.

You said:

>I'd love for Google to work out how much money they make from me in a year, and then to offer to go ad-free for 50% more than that.

How do you know that the $50 per user per year isn't exactly calculated that way? I'm actually inclined to guess that the value Google gets out of you by showing ads might be significantly higher than the $33 your calculation would allow them to earn from you.

If I could pay for just me, I'd be tempted.

But with a domain it's all or nothing, and I'm not paying for my brothers, parents, etc.

Well, that is the rate.

Because it's aimed at business, not families. Fastmail have a family service that is much more flexible imho. The problem is trying to get family to actually pay for email.

But sadly, not a rate that individuals can opt in to, when on Apps for Domains. Shame really!

Google has $31 billion of advertising revenue on their own sites (says their 2012 annual report.) They have about 1 billion unique users per month (from Comscore.) So they have about $31 per user per year of ad revenue on their own sites.

My guess is that most of this is search. Although it may be possible to figure out how much revenue per user Gmail makes, my guess is that it is between $10 and $15 per year.

I think FastMail is significantly cheaper ($5/yr for a personal account, says their website at https://www.fastmail.fm).

If the internet has taught us anything (other than that there are many people with way too much free time) it's that a vast majority of people would rather not pay for stuff and as a result the number of people willing to pay will be so small that it's not really worth their while.

Outlook.com does have this option for $20 a year - would be interesting to know what the uptake is.

Google as an organisation is primarily setup for bucketing users into groups for ads. It's a core assumption thats part of everything they do. Therefor, it's not about how much money they make from you but rather that it's really hard for them organisationally to separate users who want to pay to opt out from the rest who are their product.

The cost there isn't what they make from you in ads, even if you're willing to pay double - it's the effort for them to switch their engineering to making money off two types of users - those pay not to be tracked and those who don't care.

Or even better, just sell their email software system so people can purchase it and install it on whichever server they want.

If they ever did, they would have to admit that the "free" service is actually just an sale where the user pays for the service with data and ad-watching. Doing that, it would both be bad PR, and would catch the rage of tax officers as only "free" services are tax-free when given to customers.

i have been waiting for this on youtube for years- i do not want to see the same video pre-roll i have already clicked skip on 30 or 40 times.

Being a technology company who are seen as leaders in personalised adverts you think they would over come this terrible user experience

Adblock Plus blocks those YouTube ads, it skips over them seamlessly, so you aren't aware they are there.

The "terrible user experience" which adds numbers to their impressions statistic each time you encounter it?

Based on the little I know about this I would guess the $ amount would be more than most would be comfortable with.

The risk is that it becomes too popular causing google's ad inventory to plummet.

So to all intents and purposes this is targeted, Google endorsed spam delivered directly to my inbox?

If that's the case then it could be time to start looking for a replacement for the last Google product I use.

It's in the "Promotions" tab, not the primary inbox. Personally, I think there are better reasons to leave Gmail (which is why I did so years ago).

So if I've got rid of that (generally I have fewer than half a dozen e-mails in my inbox so tabs were pretty pointless for me) where do they appear? My assumption was in the regular inbox.

Those are clearly "special" emails, so I don't think it can be safely assumed they would be processed the same way as normal emails - it would have to be tested.

Personally, I think Google added the Promotions tab exactly because they knew they would get a major backlash against putting ads in the normal inbox.

Interesting. That could mean that this is a stop-gap before ads appear in the main inbox for users who don't use tabs. I expect that would take years though as people would need to be conditioned to the current system first. In any case it feels like a slightly underhanded way to 'subscribe' you to 'mail' you didn't ask for.

I use Gmail over IMAP so no of the web UI stuff they've done has affected me at all (in aggregate, I feel that's worked in my favour).

They'd appear above the inbox just like they always did. The new promotion tab ads are essentially a new presentation style of what was always there.

What's a good email provider? I have tens of domains I want to consolidate into a single inbox (and maybe send valid mail from), and Google Apps hasn't been doing a great job with that until now.

I wouldn't know - I run my own server (exim + dovecot + alpine) on a VPS.

ZoHo might be able to do that for you, but I'm not sure -- they might separate it at the domain level. But I'd think mail forwarding for 10 inboxes shouldn't be a stretch for them.

Inbox is inbox.

Yes, I saw this, but seems to be limited to the Promotions filtered tab which, well, an advert next to an advert. I'm kind of okay with that. But it does make you wonder if this is the start of a slippery slope.

I think this is a slippery slope. They are essentially unsolicited mail that you never asked for. Some people will genuinely use the promotions tab to receive email from companies for which they have requested promotions be sent to them. Google is getting a free ride without permission.

It sort of makes sense to me that Google, in exchange for giving me a free email account, would email ads to my free email account. Microsoft always has; I can't tell you how many times I saw "Hotmail (1)" on my MSN screen and clicked through only to find it was some ad for some Microsoft thing or another. At least with Google's version, it's very, very clear that these are ads; they don't even make your inbox get a (1) next to it or anything.

Exactly: "Promotions" is not "Spam". There is already a spam folder, so these should go straight in there, if anywhere.

How does this fit in with the CAN-SPAM act?

"Unsubscribe compliance

    A visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism is present in all emails.
    Consumer opt-out requests are honored within 10 days.
    Opt-out lists also known as Suppression lists are only used for compliance purposes.

If there is no unsubscribe option, are google in violation? (Their get-out may be that these are not actual emails, but by making the transition from clear ad space to inbox, most people would argue that the delivery mechanism is irrelevant)

They're adverts presented in the same place you see your e-mails but as they haven't been sent the the way an e-mail is, they won't have used any e-mail protocol, you won't be able to reply to them as e-mails and so on so they aren't e-mails so won't be covered by this.

So does this also mean that they won't show up in IMAP clients?


A free ride, running one of the largest and best-of-breed, free software-infrastructures.

The gmail I have now is a shadow of what it was when I was invited in more than a decade ago. I so rarely login (it's a backup dumping ground now) that I can't find what I want, it's non-intuitive, things aren't where they used to be and I can't stand it. I might just be getting old though...

You're not wrong. Google has repeatedly made Gmail worse, and I'll probably dump it when the "compose box" is forced on me.

> I can't find what I want, it's non-intuitive, things aren't where they used to be and I can't stand it. I might just be getting old though...

Definitely getting old. You sound exactly like every old person (3 of them) who i've moved from Outlook to Gmail.

If you joined Gmail when it was new and on an invite-only basis, you'd know just how much worse things has gotten.

Back then Gmail was better than everything else. Now it's an abomination which makes me want to jump ship.

I've come to Gmail with an invite too, and I fully agree with you. But I don't know yet where I would jump to. I would prefer it to be a European company.

Are you kidding? Maybe it's grown beautiful in your memory since you last saw it. 2004 gmail is fugly.

FYI, everyone was upset when it changed. That's normal human behaviour. Nobody likes change. But since then, I've learnt where the "hidden" features are, and am lovin' it.

BTW, the new Hotmail (Outlook.com) is pretty awesome too. Even better than gmail IMO.

So ... you're complaining that a service you don't really use has changed and your old understanding of it won't help you to find your way now?

I get frustrated when I go back to my hometown and am confronted with new streets and missing landmarks, but it certainly isn't their fault.

The changes are why I left, mainly the realisation that the adverts matched things I was typing (duh..), but also the hard sell attempts to get more data - phone number, location, Google+. Interface changes compounded my dislike. Edit for typo.

What makes you feel like they need any kind of permission? It's their product and they can damn well structure it how they want to.

You may not like it, and if you don't I strongly urge you to stop using their products.

Some would argue it's the second step on a slippery slope (yay for mixed metaphors!) - the first step being ads in an email client. At least the rate of descent is so far moderately glacial.

Ads in an email client that is explicitly supported by ads? The horror.

Sort of makes sense...otherwise goggle is basically providing a space for others to advertise to you inside their application, which makes little business sense.

No. Otherwise Google is providing a space for you to receive ads from others, which makes the same kind of business sense that offering an e-mail service in the first place does.

Of course it is, look at YouTube it's practically unwatchable now without ad blockers.

Ads in your search results, ads to the left of your video, ads before the video, ads during the video

Given that this is avoidable by using any POP or IMAP client, I wonder how soon they'll close them down. I'm pretty sure it's a matter of "when".

The basic HTML interface doesn't show this either, or at least I don't have this tab and that's what I use. Nor does the really basic old mobile interface (which works great from the terminal with w3m) -- this one https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=mobile

You're right of course, all of these will probably disappear soon :(

I think it's a good benchmark of their real intentions whether they interfere with those at all. At the moment, because any user can bail out to an IMAP or POP client, including 3rd party web services that behave as those, there is a natural limit to how obnoxious Google can be. If they degrade their native web inbox sufficiently, people will switch to alternatives in droves (I already have long ago).

Indeed, we'll know their real intentions once they interfere with those services, however a bad precedent has already been created: their jabber/xmpp service.

Anyone with Android phones, what's the default way to check your emails, IMAP? If yes, then there is still some hope. :-)

Registered specifically to post this.

Today seems to be an interesting day on HN.

First, Google's ad revenue's are down ~5%, every jumps up and down saying the end is near and they need to shape up before they fade into irrelevance.

Now a hint of a forthcoming feature where they are doing just that, making a change to increase revenue and people lose their minds.

Lets think about this. The feature is under Promotions, a section already laden with junk for most people. Are we all saying that John from "matresses online" can send me news about this weeks greatest sleep position and special offers like 5% off pillow fluffing, but Google couldn't input it's own ad, which would likely be tailored to your interests in any case? If you signup to promotions for numerous sources (enough to warrant the promotions tab) you might appreciate the ad, no? If you don't, well you'll never be in the Promoted tab in most cases anyway, so it likely wont affect you all that much (assuming they wouldn't inject ad's into main inbox stream).

> The feature is under Promotions, a section already laden with junk for most people

In my case, as a journalist, it includes a huge amount of useful email. Either way, I'd have to check it often, because Gmail's sorting into categories is abysmal. (For the same reason I have to check the spam folder multiple times a day. It contains a high proportion of legitimate email.)

However, it's a moot point because I turned the tabs off within a day.

>The feature is under Promotions, a section already laden with junk for most people.

I don't know... I don't know how Google decides mail goes into the Promotions tab, but I have no junk in there. The things that went into my Promotions tab were:

-My auto insurance policy

-A notice from my vet saying my cats were due for vaccinations.

-Some (but not all) emails from my college's Alumni association (which probably would be considered promotional)

-Emails telling me my phone bill was due.

-Email confirming a car rental.

-Emails telling me that my auto loan payment was due.

-Email from Walgreens telling me that I have a prescription that was due for refill, and to reply to that email to automatically refill that prescription.

-Some emails that sites send after you create an account with them.

All these are important for me, but I wouldn't consider any of them promotional material. I don't sign up for promotions.

I went and disabled these silly tabs...

Google's advertising revenues are not down 5%. Google's total revenue is up 19% year over year and 1% quarter over quarter. All categories of revenue are up except for network revenue (which is up 7% Y/Y but down 2% Q/Q).

You may be thinking of the share price which in after hours trading dropped 5% but recovered most of that this morning. Or perhaps you're thinking about the Cost-Per-Click metric which decreased somewhere around 5%.


Side note, for reference I'm a Google apps user with ads disabled for my domain, who doesn't use this new inbox style, so I'd assume the ads wouldn't display for me in any case.

Okay. So this style of advertising is known as "native/integrated advertising". As someone who runs a startup doing the same, I have few things:

1. Google has been doing this for years. It was known as "adwords". It's multi-billion dollars tool that gave birth to SEM.

2. It is limited to promotions tab. Promotions tab is where users go to check their promotional emails. I doubt Gmail will move them to real inbox. In fact, they will be foolish to do so. It's pretty smart move.

3. It is clearly marked as an ad with yellow background. So user is clearly informed about advertisement.

It's understandable that users are freaking out a little. But c'mon gmail has been doing ads in their inbox for a while. Email is extremely personal medium and they will be foolish to move ads from promotions tab to inbox tab. Google has lot of smart folks on their teams so we can trust them for the same.

I have a few things too:

1. This new "feature" is basically automated filters. Most folks who've used gmail for years have at least some filters set up. Google didn't say anything about throwing ads in the promotions tab, so this is a little...strange.

2. Slippery slope. How long until this populates the main inbox tab? I bet google could even charge differently depending on which tab you want your ads to show up in.

3. XMPP Federation. Google Reader. Google Wave. How long will it be until Gmail is either axed or full of so many ads that it's unusable?

4. Does Adblock / NoScript block these? Can it?

5. The history of Gmail was that it was a next-generation email service and started as an invite only club. Now, every email provider under the sun gives similar features, and gmail hasn't changed much. Personally I think that this is a good thing, it shows that the service is stable and the ideas were correct. But people at Google might think otherwise and might want to try to "innovate" more. Sooo... ads.

1. I agree, Google must do something to inform users about these auto categorizations

2. I doubt they will populate primary inboxes with ads. They created promotions tab for that so they must've thought about it long and hard. Believe me, when people like me who work in ads businesses think about introducing new ads/formats, we worry about lot of things. Ads are not about making money. Ads are about ensuring users find them useful, brands also demand that. Lastly, even if I run ad related business, I'm an average user too, I have my family who have no clue about how digital advertising works. So whatever decisions I make is important for me, my family and my users given it's implications.

3. Google axed some of the products you mentioned cause they were not sustainable for them. I doubt that will be the case for Gmail. It's most popular web-mail service.

4. No they can't as far as my knowledge goes. But someone might figure out a way to block them.

5. I was part of invite only club in 2004. And I also miss some of the cutting-edge innovations that gmail brought e.g. storage, speed, agility etc. I personally find these auto categorizations to be extremely useful. It has cleaned up my cluttered inbox. And ads are also part of it but their impact is minimal.

That's hilarious. You would think people would stop giving Google the benefit of the doubt when it comes to anything advertising related, but fanboys seem to feel no embarrassment at being proven wrong time and time again. Choice quotes:

No. It files all your emails that it classifies as promotional but non-spam. That won't include Google Offers and Zagat if you're not subscribed to Google Offers or Zagat (for me, it's mostly events & careers newsletters). It's just an auto-categoriser (a new UI for smart labels), it doesn't invent new emails that weren't there before.

I think you misunderstand what that tab is for. It's not a place for Google advertising; it's a place where promotional emails from any site are automatically sorted into - to keep them separate from other useful email. E.g. a clothing website that sends emails about weekly sales - that'll end up under Promotional.

the "Promotions" label is applied to your incoming mail that is best classified as a "Promotion", such as any promotional email from sites you shop at - it's not additional content that Gmail is feeding you.

Having used Adblock (currently Adblock Edge) and Ghostery/Disconnect for so long, I haven't seen ads in ages. It's actually a bit jarring when I use a computer that doesn't have ad blocking enabled... everything suddenly gets so cluttered.

Yeah, I've visited websites for years that I felt were very well designed in regards to being open and having a nice amount of whitespace. Seeing the same site on someone else's computer is a bit heartbreaking.

I tried to switch to Adblock Edge, but it seems to be buggier than Adblock Plus - like, the extension config screen doesn't seem to work

There have always been ads in GMail, and they have always been clearly marked as ads. These new ads are still clearly marked as ads, and clearly distinct from emails, they are just placed slightly differently in the UI.

If this becomes a thing, I might actually switch to something else.

I've been actively looking for alternatives recently after all their "improvements" kept breaking my flow.

Unfortunately there isn't much out there :/

I have been using my own email server since 2000.

For me, Gmail is only an email aggregator for my multiple email accounts. At home I keep on using a trusty desktop IMAP client.

I'm actually fine using IMAP, but I really don't want to run my own dovecot/exim/spamassassin servers. It's really inconvenient and really hard to filter out spam. What I need is a hosted IMAP/SMTP service that does spam filtering. I'd prefer not to stay on gmail and use their imap/smtp, but that might be the short term solution.

Fastmail is pretty great.

I've just noticed the praise recently for this. Two dealbreakers for me:

- No push on iPhone (as far as I can see)

- No Calendar integration

Yeah, Apple doesn't support IMAP-IDLE which is a drag, so push is out. And you're right, there's no calendar. I also hear LDAP is read-only on devices, so you can't add to your Fastmail address book from your iPhone.

I personally don't use any of those things anyway but I can definitely understand why that would be a dealbreaker for a lot of people. It's great for email and the webmail interface got way better recently. Their blog is also pretty neat, they go into a fair bit of technical detail about new features and how they solved certain bugs: http://blog.fastmail.fm/2012/11/26/inter-tab-communication-u...

I closed my google account today after spending a few weeks migrating. Try fruux for calendar and contact sync, it's hosted in Germany and I'm happy with it

Have you tried Fastmail?

Likewise, I've been thinking about moving away from Google Apps for a while and this may be the push that I needed.

Anybody have any suggestions? Self-hosted or otherwise.

http://www.roundcube.net/ is generally agreed to be the best webmail system. It's OSS.

I don't know about "generally agreed", but it has been adopted by Kolab and Mountain Lion as their email front-end, which I count as substantial votes of confidence in the product.

I'm resistant to adopting this kind of technology: I'm no security guru, but the idea of having Apache/PHP invoking Postfix directly as an executable (i.e., not via SMTP/ whatever) makes me feel nervous.

> the idea of having Apache/PHP invoking Postfix directly as an executable (i.e., not via SMTP/ whatever) makes me feel nervous.

I don't know much about roundcube, but afaik it works by talking to your SMTP/IMAP servers.

>I don't know about "generally agreed"

Fair point. Perhaps "often agreed" would be better.

I've been happy with http://atmailcloud.com/ It's $10/month for 5 email accounts, multi-domain support, with calendaring and contacts too.

Email aliases don't count against the 5 account limit, and you can have as many as you like on whatever domains you like. Adding a domain doesn't use up an account slot, so you can set up forwarding addresses for multiple domains for no extra cost.

Yeah, I'll definately start searching for a good alternative. This is just unacceptable.

Wouldn't it be anti-competitive to block spam, yet let your own spam through? The ads in that screenshot look like they are effectively imitating spam.

There needs to be a docker.io image with a (mostly) preconfigured mailserver, roundcube and PGP. Maybe it exists already? If not I might make one.

It would be more easy for you to switch to other providers if you own your domain - now you know why Google removed the free Google app for custom domain last year...Don't forget the story of XMPP, who know they will not remove pop3/imap access in the future because these standards are not able to catch up the Gmail's upcoming revolutionary features?

After all, all these moves are understandable - they now have nearly 50K employees, shareholders have high expectation on the "growth" and they need to invest on projects like glasses, self driving car and maybe mars exploration! Where does the money come from? I would expect Google will receive less criticism if they simply remove the "Don't be evil" from their company motto - then we can say Microsoft/Yahoo! is doing the same thing, why complain?

I've tried outlook.com and it was OK. I wonder if this can help make hotmail relevant again.

I like some elements of iCloud for email, however its lack of settings (want to have your outgoing mail appear to come from john@doe.com? Tough) and terrible terrible search are a bit of deal breaker. How is the search so bad? I usually resort to just scrolling back through emails rather than use it.

Seriously. I usually end up grabbing my iPhone and doing a search there instead of via the web interface. So, so bad.

> I've tried outlook.com and it was OK. I wonder if this can help make hotmail relevant again.

Not without IMAP it can't. I can't believe Microsoft is dragging their feet on this.

Who would have that that a major change would be used to provide advertisements from the biggest online advertising company?

I wonder, will this be how they start to push ads into IMAP clients ?

Cue: If you're not the customer, you're the product.

For balance: linux and open source in general.

What do linux and open source have to do with this at all?

They are a counter-example: you are not the customer (you aren't paying for it), but you also are not the product.

Actually, I think you are the product for free software. Think in terms of non-monetary rewards. Developers get satisfaction and sense of achievement from the number of users using their software. So your usage is actually the 'product'.

There is an awful lot of righteous indignation here over Google placing ads where you'll only see them if you're looking for ads.

ok, now I'm officially on the market for alternatives.

Maybe I should go back to good old mutt..

fetchmail/getmail your gmail, read with mutt, send with msmtp.

Pine! :)

Alpine ;)

I'm going to play devil's advocate for a little bit and say that the email-like-ads are in your promotions tab. A tab that is meant for ads. I turned off the tabs and I don't get the email ads.

I'm surprised ads is what gets people up in arms.

Google knowitall overlords logging your whole digital and physical life. Media bubble. Emails shared with spooks.

Ads are annoying. I get that. This is less annoying than youtube ads. Less annoying than TV ads (even if you can fastforward them). Anyway, annoying is not the same as evil. Gmail is convenient. Ads are annoying. If (annoying > convenient), use something else.

So no matter how many times I click on the "spam" button on these things, I'm always going to be getting them. Great.

I wonder at what point the ads appear to have come from one of your legitimate contacts.

PS isn't faceboob already doing this?

Isn't this old news? It's very interesting, because on top of the ad placement, the binning of promotions may radically reduce the efficacy of email-based sales. Fab, Groupon, Grand St., etc, are probably not too happy about this.

Well, when users developed a habit of ignoring ads they must push it the other way, like FB did with placing ads in a news feed as stories. The same premise, the same response.

Just think of Promotions tab as a new SPAM folder.)

Oh no, a company that gives me everything for free is displaying non intrusive ads in the wrong part of the screen and even tells me that they are ads! I'm too entitled for this!

Wow. A lot of discussion from a single tweet. Do we have all the information?

It's very likely a test. Google does a lot of testing that ultimately is not publicly released.

The tabs are nice and all. But is there a way to have both the tabs and a button so i can see all emails at once in 1 tab? Been clicking around with no success.

Same here. I can't see any way to see all mail either, apart from turning off the tabs. Which I did.

The tabs were pretty much useless anyway, because the sorting is so bad. I have one important category of mail that's already tagged with a label, and Gmail had examples under three different tabs. That's so incompetent it's almost malign.

Create a quick label for the search "+label:inbox"?

So they kill Reader and "socialize" email. What's next google, and what are you going to do to keep us techies folded in?

Gmail gets creepier and creepier. I'm not there yet, but I'm close to looking for alternatives.

Is there a good way to sync contacts to my (Android, but possibly soon FirefoxOS) phone with FastMail?

I've been using an email client and slowly migrating to a @mydomain email for personal contacts.

No problem for me, I just turned the feature off.

But maybe it will become mandatory in due time?

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