On March 31, 2004 Google said they would release a free e-mail account with 1,000 Megabytes (ca. 1GB) for every user. Many thought it was a April Fool's joke, but it wasn't. It was an innovative addition to the rather stagnant area of free web-mail services.
On Gmail's 1st birthday, Google gave every Gmail user 2GBs of space and it's increasing with every second. The login page has a ticker showing the amount of free storage space currently offered (ca. 7GB as of 2009).
Originally, the invitations were sent out to a relatively small number of 'elite' internet users, and some journalists. The journalists could review the email service, and in the process create quite a buzz about the service. These users were given different numbers of invites by which they could give a select number of others access. New users also got invites and so the user-base grew by word of mouth.
After a few years in "beta", Google has opened the service up to everyone to use.
== Features ==
The backbone of Gmail is a powerful Google search engine that quickly finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again. For this reason, the Gmail interface implemented no folder structure. It did, however, introduce labels. Instead of placing an email in a single folder, conversations could be categorised with multiple labels. Another innovation amongst web-mail interfaces was the concept of conversations by which emails are grouped together with their replies.
Powerful spam filtering
Email Content-sensitive advertising
Interface available in multiple languages.
Automatic forwarding, POP3 and (limited) IMAP access
Many fully supported browsers
== Obtaining an account ==
Simply go to http://mail.google.com/mail/signup and fill in the form.