A few years ago a software recruiter told me how he deleted job applications sent from a Hotmail account: after all, how could an applicant claim to be technology-savvy and still be using hotmail? Seriously. While Yahoo was by far not as bad as Hotmail, there was a stigma attached to using the free webmail services for business. The only solution to look professional was to use your own domain. Then something funny happened: along came Gmail, and all of a sudden it became chic to use the generic *.gmail.com accounts even professionally.
“I don’t know anyone who still uses Yahoo Mail or Microsoft’s Hotmail for their webmail…” says VentureBeat’s Antony Ha. Me neither – personally. But we both know there are tens of millions of YMail (yes, Yahoo Mail is trying to be chic recently) Hotmail and AOL (hey, at least it’s not Compuserve!) users, in fact they are still the dominant players in Webmail, at least in number of accounts.
Two years ago I argued that for the productivity-obsessed (like yours truly) Gmail was the clear winner. But let’s be real, not everyone needs productivity. For AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail users, be it grandmas (or my neighbour) who check email once a week, or corporate employees who use Outlook in the Office and want something similar at home, familiarity is more important than productivity. They are the people who did not switch to VOIP providers for $15 or less per month offered by new providers, but are willing to cough up $30+ to Comcast now that VOIP service is brought to them by their old cable provider. They don’t want change. And they don’t want the pain of losing their old email or having to rebuild their contacts.
Not that they have to: there have been a number of ways to import such data from other webmail accounts or even desktop email clients. Two years ago I wrote How to Import All Your Archive Email Into Gmail as a quick-and-dirty guide, not expecting this post to turn out my biggest hit ever. This post, although largely outdated by now was read over 100,000 times in the past two years… so I know first hand that there is huge demand to move ones “baggage” when switching services. But my solution, other workarounds, even Google’s own tools were all somewhat cumbersome to use – certainly not easy enough to overcome the biggest obstacle to switching email providers: inertia.
The process is powered by a third-party, TrueSwitch, and may take up to two days to complete after initial setup. Your contacts will be imported into the recently launched standalone contact manager, accessible from Gmail and other services.
While mostly a matter of convenience, I believe these tools will convince millions of email users to finally make the switch to Big G.
I only have two gripes… one is that Google Apps grew out of a Gmail centric world, and they seem to have the simplified world view of one user = one gmail account. That is simply not true, and while the initial Google Account vs Gmail Account chaos got more or less resolved, it’s popping up its ugly head again: with Google going social, and more and more services being tied to one’s Google Account, there is a real need now to be able to link one central Google Account (our identity in Google’s World) to multiple email (gmail) accounts. And I’m not even talking about apps like Google Voice whose Contacts are not integrated with this new Contact Manager…
The other issue is how Google Apps accounts continuously get ignored whenever new Gmail features are released. As if these accounts were somehow “second-class”, when one could make the case that people who brought their own domain to Google are likely more professional users, made an investment, are likely candidates to upgrade to Premium services … if any prioritization is warranted, Apps accounts should come first.
Oh, well… rant over… welcome, new Gmail users.