I was talking with Josh today about Hotmail vs. Gmail. He informs me that Hotmail is apparently offering two gigs of space to its users these days. “Hey,” I thought, “that’s almost as much as Gmail. Good for them! Two years after GMail was released, Hotmail has finally almost caught up.”
It occurred to me then that I think the release of Gmail signaled the single worst ass kickin there ever was of a previously existing online service. Zillow vs. Housevalues is close behind, but I’ll never ever forget the day that I got my 1 GIG of space from Gmail at a time when Hotmail was offering users 1 MEG of space, and charging its users something like $20 a month for 250 megs of space. I still grin when I think about the discussions that must have gone on behind closed doors when someone had to break the bad news to the Hotmail director.
Poor sap to boss: “Yes, um, sir, I don’t know exactly how to break this to you, but our most reviled competitor just released a product with 1,000 times more space than ours, better tools, and far faster.”
Boss: “They what?! #$#@$ at least tell me it’s not free. Please tell me it isn’t free.”
Poor sap: “Well……..sir……..”
What’s worse, even though Hotmail (and Yahoo) reacted pretty quickly to get users a semi-reasonable amount of space (I believe both had a free 250 megs within a month or two of Gmail’s release), the quick turnaround only serves to make them seem more evil for not giving their users that space in the first place. That bad taste is still in my mouth today, and the whoopin Google put on both Yahoo and Microsoft still frames the terms in which I think about the relationship between the three.
Of course, the alternative for these sites was the HouseValues.com approach: provide your users with a tool that takes 10 times longer to use, has less features, and blame a sagging national real estate as your woes mount.