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Gmail Edges Past AOL, Still in Third Place

News flash: Google's Gmail is not the most popular Web mail service. Or even the second-most popular option.

It is, however, now the third-most popular Web e-mail application, according to new figures from ComScore covered by multiple sources on Friday. Gmail's 37 million visitors a month badly trail the 106 million Yahoo Mail draws each month, but aren't far behind the 47 million of Microsoft's Hotmail -- and just surpass the 36.4 million of AOL's Web mail.

To judge from news coverage here and elsewhere, though, you'd never guess that Gmail has only just now managed to crawl into third place.

Part of the credit for Gmail's high profile goes to Google itself, which frequently delivers updates and enhancements to the service. That ensures it's rarely out of the news, even if individual changes (say, Gmail finally losing its "beta" status after five years) may not make for much of a real-world difference.

Google has also recently stepped up its marketing efforts to get corporations, organizations and schools to adopt its Web services for their own e-mail, scheduling and productivity needs. (Note, for instance, how graduates of the University of Virginia will soon have their alumni e-mail accounts switched to a Gmail-based system.)

But you also have to look at what Google's competitors have done. Hotmail has gotten some noteworthy upgrades recently -- such as its addition of offline access through standard e-mail programs--but Yahoo and AOL's Web mail services (not to mention such non-free alternatives as Apple's MobileMe) fail to keep up with Gmail's improvements. For example, I was particularly dismayed the other day to discover that a click on the "Accounts" category of Yahoo Mail's options screen brought up this message:

Pardon our appearance during construction We're still tweaking the Yahoo! Mail Accounts option. Temporarily you'll need to access it through the Yahoo! Mail Classic interface. But, rest assured, any changes made will take effect once you've reloaded the Yahoo! Mail.

Yes, this is the "Classic" interface that Yahoo allegedly retired two years ago when it took the new interface out of beta testing -- which, in turn, came 23 months after the new interface's experimental debut.

That kind of sluggish, inattentive development may fail to give reporters any breaking news to hang a headline on. It certainly tells regular users "we don't care enough about this product to pay attention to details like this."

Do you use a non-Google Web mail service? If so, have you been tempted to switch? What's kept you with your current option, and what would Google have to do to win you over? ("Nothing" is an acceptable answer -- the Web doesn't need a Google monopoly here or anywhere else.)

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 17, 2009; 12:53 PM ET
Categories:  E-mail  
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Use Hotmail for throw away. Main email client is Vista's Windows Mail. Basic but it's all I need or want.

Posted by: tbva | August 17, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I have one of just about everything, just to see what they are like. The new Windows Live is getting better than the old Hotmail, and yahoo is just not for me. There's nothing about it I like. I use Gmail as a client to POP every kind of mail I can.

I didn't think I'd like Gmail the first time I saw it, but boy was I wrong. I find it the most comfortable to use by far.

Posted by: JkR- | August 17, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Google is my main account. I have to use Yahoo! at work (don't even ask!) and it drives me crazy. I sure hope they manage to get their act together.

Posted by: rtzohar | August 17, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I didn't think I'd like Gmail the first time I saw it, but boy was I wrong. I find it the most comfortable to use by far.


Gmail is a very powerful system. I love its concept of labels, and use it extensively for filtering incoming mail and forwarding. In addition, it's integrated with Google voice, adding an entirely new dimension to communication.

Web mail in general - and Google mail in particular - has a significant advantage over old client-based systems, viz., the ability to access your mail from anywhere and Web-based storage (meaning, if you lose your PC you don't lose your email).

One downside to all of this, especially in the case of Google, is that I'm slowing placing A LOT of trust in a single vendor (I'm also a big user of Google docs).

Posted by: JamesSCameron | August 17, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I've got Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Gmail. The latter is relatively new, the first two I've had for over a decade.

Some of it is habit, some of it is simply to protect my POP e-mail from over-spamming and to protect my privacy.

Of the three, I've really learned to love my Gmail, though all three have their pros and cons. I love the multiple label concept in Gmail - if I have an e-mail that falls under two categories, I don't have to decide which subfolder to file it in, just apply all the necessary labels. And with the custom label color feature (in Google Labs), it helps me visually sort my Inbox as well.

The one thing I don't like is how I have to search on "label:unread" if I want to read my unread mail - a button or feature for that wouldn't kill you, Google.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | August 17, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

A note on the University of Virginia: all student mail accounts, and the accounts of several recent graduating classes, have been converted to U.Va.-branded Gmail as of last year. Older alumni have only had an email forwarding service available to them--so it's a new thing for them to get an actual email account.

I have a Gmail account, a separate "UVa Mail" account which is also on Gmail, a Hotmail throwaway account (I ditched it once Gmail came along because I hated the interface and harsh size and account deletion policies).

Posted by: bokamba | August 17, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, gmail is in the news a lot, for many things, but I don’t intend on using most of its new innovations. I just want them to fix and maintain the basics, such as emptying the trash after 30 days like it’s supposed to, according to the description. Also, on a 24-inch iMac, I notice the theme I selected is only in the top portion of the browser. And why allow you to hide the folders, when I still see the icon for the amount of folders I chose to hide – i.e. the interface could have a better design. And I hate the “Last Account Activity.” Couldn’t this be hidden somewhere it’s easy to find, if you wanted to?

gmail is OK for now, but I’m waiting for something new… I guess you could say I'm g-bored.

Posted by: ummhuh1 | August 17, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Rob Pegoraro left out a few important statistics. Gmail is by far the fastest major growing email service. You can Google this information.

According to comScore, Gmail’s unique visitors grew 25 percent this year, while AOL’s declined 22 percent in the same period.

In comparison, Hotmail grew just 8 percent during the same period, while Yahoo! Mail increased unique visitors by 16 percent.

Posted by: jackdaniels08 | August 17, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Changing an email address can be daunting, especially if you've had the same one for a long time. I've had my own domain name since 2001 and an email address with that service as my primary. I recently migrated my domain's email to google's free apps service and couldn't be more pleased with it. The spam filter is the most effective one I've ever seen, the features keep coming out, and the ability to archive stuff without worrying about disk space is liberating. I, too, worry (like JamesSCameron) about placing too many eggs in one basket, but I use Apple's Mail client to download gmail periodically so it's archived on my computer as well.

Posted by: pjgeraghty | August 17, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I have accounts with both Yahoo Mail and Gmail but mostly use the former. I would switch to Gmail for its better features except for one thing: I get five to ten times as much spam in the Gmail account. Any clues to why this might be, or what I could do to limit the Gmail spam? (Gmail's spam filter works pretty well, as does Yahoo's, but still it's a necessary pain to review the spam folder periodically to make sure there's nothing important there.)

Posted by: gtodon | August 17, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I use Gmail but I hate the lack of a resend function. So I have to copy/paste the recipients into a text file and then copy/paste the content to the text file. Then compose a new email and copy/paste everything back in, make my updates and then finally send. What a pain.

Posted by: DCTommy | August 17, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

I had every intention of switching from Yahoo to Gmail awhile back. Then my google login became inactive. I have no idea what happened. But once it did happen, there was no customer service OF ANY KIND that I could employ to get it reactivated! Google's FAQs recommended that I simply create a new account. But my email 'handle' has been the same since I first got on the internet, and I was unwilling to change it simply because Google had a problem.

Posted by: bidalah | August 17, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the use of Google Apps (for Gmail on a custom domain name) gets counted in this statistic. If not, I am willing to bet the various businesses who have configured their own domain names to use Gmail (for free) as well as the various schools making the switch may even tip the scales further, pushing Gmail into #2 usage. This doesn't even count those willing to pay for the premium version of Google Apps.

Posted by: BIGELLOW | August 17, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

I am seriously considering dropping Yahoo email. I switched to Yahoo from my Hotmail account (which I mostly use now as a backup) because Yahoo seemed (and still seems) to have a lot less spam. But I am getting a lot more error messages on my Yahoo account recently than I used to, so many in fact that it has become painful to use. I particularly seem to be getting a lot of something called Error Code 5, which apparently has to do with Yahoo being unable to handle being used on a PC while also being automatically accessed by a Blackberry. Yahoo also seems to be simply freezing up a lot more than it used to. It is a pain to switch providers but I am increasingly inclined to at least try GMail. Rob: do you know if GMail also has trouble being used on a PC while concurrently being automatically accessed by a Blackberry?

Posted by: CarlosdeCorona | August 17, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

And the point here is?

Posted by: sbissell3 | August 18, 2009 10:03 AM | Report abuse

I must be one of the few people who actually pay for a Yahoo! account (USD20/yr Yahoo! Mail Plus). I find it's spam protection first class, especially the ability to create disposable email addresses, especially when I suspect that giving my email address may lead to spamming. I have a Gmail account which I never use, but I use Google Docs. I just find Gmail anti-spam too weak.

Posted by: RaphAwoseyin | August 18, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Advice to other one-stop-shoppers: Pick g-mail or another freemail server, but get off your provider's email server now - it is an onerous lock-in. Being able to change providers at will is very useful as the provider price wars intensify.
I changed from Comcast to Verizon 18 months ago and I'm still finding and having to change dozens of site logins I previously used, many important like life insurances, rarely used work sites, government service sites, clothing and drug order sites, known-good home and auto parts suppliers and such.
Don't put it off.

Posted by: NE_Nerd | August 18, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"Hotmail has gotten some noteworthy upgrades recently -- such as its addition of offline access through standard e-mail programs--"

Where have you been these last years? Gmail has that since they went live: pop3, imap etc....
On topa of that, if ypou want to compare services, try not to compare apples and oranges. Yahoo has such a high traffic volume because they also provide the infrastructure and services for other providers. For ex. and the others services own by AT&T are actually hosted and serviced by Yahoo.

Posted by: marcel1 | August 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I went to Gmail from Juno and Verizon, currently there are 4 Gmail accounts and 1 Lycos account. Gmail's adaptive spam filtering is effective
open PGP and common security protocols are supported and the POP/SMTP servers work well with Thunder Bird.

If you need to access your email from several computers Gmail's web client is more than adequate.

I download everything to an archive drive, with 2 search parameters any email correspondence from April 1985 to present can be on screen in less than 20 sec.

Not being a Windows person I am unqualified to comment on Virus, malware or spy ware filtering of attachments, Thunder Bird automatically scans downloads with Clam AV. Before I send anything it is scanned with
Avast Pro for Linux, believe I've had 5 positives in the last 2 years

My overall experience with G mail and Google in general has been nothing but positive. Cloud Apps and Storage ? My System, My Apps,
My Data, My Development, My Labor..........
My Hard Drives
Nothing personal I just don't trust everybody

Posted by: rufus7 | August 18, 2009 5:45 PM | Report abuse

I have used Yahoo! for several years to receive commercial e-mail (personal e-mail goes to one of my two proxy accounts). I was only tempted to switch when I heard the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo!, until I read that it only related to searching. I have not tried Google, because I use so much more on Yahoo! than just e-mail. I have no idea whether Google has a calendar integrated with it's e-mail service that I can share with my wife or the multiple home pages for different interests. The shared calendar is an essential feature even though we still sometimes forget to add an event or check it before scheduling a new one.

Posted by: RickG5 | August 19, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I like gmail, I can receive my email in a few time since someone send me a email.
Commented by: PSP

Posted by: softwaresoda168 | August 24, 2009 5:08 AM | Report abuse

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