Remembering What Email Was Like 10 Years Ago When Gmail Was Born

By Liam Butler on at

To celebrate ten years of Gmail, let's stroll down the cul-de-sac of nostalgia and recall what webmail was like before Google stepped on the scene.


You Had to Delete Emails

Back in 2004, Hotmail was the webmail provider du jour. You got 2MB of inbox storage, and could send attachments of up to 1MB. One uncompressed photo from Auntie Jean and your inbox was torpedoed, so it was important to regularly delete emails. Do you remember how fun that was? The more decadent netizens could choose to upgrade to 10 megabytes of inbox for $19.95 a year, but they were just delaying the inevitable.

Then Gmail came along with 1GB. Minds. Blown. It sickens me to think how carefree the kids of today are with their inboxes.


There Was No Automatic Encryption

It was a simpler time. Nobody bothered with protection. 'Sure! I'll send emails over an unsecured HTTP connection!'

'HTTPS? You square. That's for banks and paranoid people. It's not like anyone's listening!'

We were so naive.


Ads Weren't Creepy

Remember when email ads weren't so stalkerish? Ten years ago, they were disarmingly irrelevant.

Not any more. In a recent email exchange with a friend, I mentioned that my back was aching. She jokingly suggested that I try some pain relief bracelets. Po-faced Gmail was all over that shit:

Seriously, Gmail. Back off, yeah?


Chain Emails. So Many Chain Emails

Back in 2004, I mostly did two things:

-Spend hours on MSN Messenger, achieving nothing but self-loathing.
-Delete shit like this from my inbox:

They were much more difficult to ignore when you only had 2MB of inbox space. Though if they really are cursed, it would explain my relationship track record.


We Didn't Just Use Our Names

Maybe it's because I was sixteen at the time, but email addresses were so much more inventive back then. It was a veritable Wild West, and we were the pioneers. We were carving out our own little slices of the internet, one cringeworthy username at a time.

Funnily enough, addresses like 'disposableteen69', 'x_chocolatesprinklez_x' and 'dicky_mcdickdick' weren't quite so amusing when job applications and council tax forms started asking for your email.

That's how I remember email, anyhow. Reckon I've missed something out? Feel free to share your memories or call me an idiot in the comments.

Liam is a displaced Yorkshireman living in London. He writes the blog Angry Flat Cap and tweets as @angryflatcap. He can't remember when he last wore a flat cap.

Image Credits: Old Hotmail, NSA, Breaking Bad from AMC.