Kay lives here

working with the web

What’s so great about Gmail?

I’ve been quiet lately – been busy. And have some cool new Playstation games. And, the roof’s going on our house. And, someone sent me a Gmail invite (thanks again, Mark!).

Asterisk is asking, “What’s the Big Deal with Gmail?”. Apart from the fact that I have an account and lots of people who don’t have one want one (kidding… well kinda), I’m here to tell you it is good. Google have managed to create a webmail interface that’s actually fast and useable, as much so if not actually more so than a regular desktop mail application. No really.

I decided to try and quantify the difference. I’ve had a Hotmail acount since 1996 or 1997 (when did it start, anwyay?) and I don’t really have a huge spam problem because I only really use it for newsletters. And most sites are switching to rss now so I’d prefer to use that. But anyway, I logged into my hotmail account and saved a listing page out (there was no mail in my inbox at the time, btw). The files that Firefox downloaded totalled 115KB. Of this, about 20K was script and css files, which would get cached in the browser, and 10K was interface graphics, which would also get cached. The HTML file itself was 20K. Gaphical ads made up 42K.

Now, Gmail. I logged in, and have five “conversations” in my inbox. Total size of saved page, a whopping 383KB. Yes, that’s right kids, the fastest webmail client in the west is over three times as large as the lumbering MS beast’s own devilspawn. But wait a minute. Of that, 39.4KB is interface graphics which would be cached. Over 300KB is cached script files. The HTML file and some iframe source which seems to hold the messages add up to a piddly 4K.

Now, looking back at this highly scientific exploration, I know that the numbers don’t actually add up to the advertised totals. I don’t really care – it was meant to be a quick experiment. I could tabulate it all up. I could log into Dave’s Yahoo account and try it there. I could try and make it more accurate by having the same number of messages in each inbox. What do you think I am – some crazy geek with nothing better to do with my time?

Don’t anwer that. Bottom line is, Gmail rocks – about 4K actual repeat loading time compared to about 60K. And that’s before we start talking about the funkiness going on in that 300K of JavaScript, which limits the number of unnecessary page reloads and makes managing long mailing list threads a breeze.

I’ve given out all my invites and the next few are already spoken for, so please don’t ask. If I have get more than I need, I’ll be sure to post ’em. But Google seem to be ramping them up, so I’m sure they will be even easier to get hold of real soon.

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