The sainted geeks at Google want to read your email and embed relevant ads in return for 1GB of free storage. News at 11. Sounds like a pretty good trade. We planned to do exactly this at another.com (which was, as I’m sure you’ll remember, the UK’s number one email service for a heady year or two) and even Stuart, our authentic geek conscience, thought this was a pretty good idea since we wouldn’t really be reading your email, just parsing it (note: Stuart has a degree in philosophy. He has no difficulty with the difference between parsing and reading). In the end, we decided to take the direct route and charge our customers cash money for using the service. In fact, I think this might be a better strategy for a powerful brand like Google but I really don’t think we can blame them for trying to balance privacy, security and convenience to produce a sustainable business that fits with their other (free) services.
Meanwhile, in California, which I thought was the spiritual home of free market capitalism and a place where exercising your free will is a compulsory daily chore, like flossing, a Senator Figueroa is framing legislation to stop GMail. She says Google’s embedded ads are like: “having a massive billboard in the middle of your home”. If someone knocked on my door and offered me the opportunity to have a massive billboard in the middle of my home I might say ‘no’ – or I might (what the hell) say ‘yes’. Figueroa has presumably been nobbled by Google’s competition or simply fails to understand the nature of choice on the net. Either way, her naivety could be seriously damaging to Google and to other online innovators.