To limit abuse from potential spammers, Gmail — Google’s free email service — imposes a limit on the number of emails you can send per day. The exact limit isn’t known (some say it’s a little less than 400 messages, others say 500 messages). When you reach that limit, though, Gmail will suspend your ability to send mail for an unspecified length of time. (On message boards, users claim the shutdown lasts anywhere from 24 to 72 hours.)
I’m a big fan of Gmail. Behind the scenes, every single one of my email addresses forwards to a single Gmail account. As a result, whether I’m at my desk or on the road, I can view and reply to all my email from one web-based interface. If I can get to the Internet, I can get to my messages. In addition, Gmail builds a searchable archive of all my mail, freeing me from having to squeeze all that information onto my laptop’s hard drive.
Another reason I love Gmail: my outgoing emails can all be stamped with a personal email address of my own choosing. In my case, instead of having those emails be labeled [my address]@gmail.com, I can have them show the “mismailbox.com” address I prefer for people to use.
So, I love Gmail. I love it so much that, about a month ago, instead of reading and writing mail in an application (like Outlook, Entourage, or Apple’s mail.app), I started exclusively reading and writing mail in Gmail’s web-based interface. Over time, though, this has become a little uncomfortable, for a number of reasons:
– You can’t write email off-line, to be uploaded to Gmail later.
– The web-based interface doesn’t spell-check as you write.
– The web-based interface can be a little hard on the eyes after a while.
So yesterday, I tried an experiment: could I still enjoy all the goodness of Gmail … but read and write email in Apple’s mail.app?
Before I knew it, I had the system up and running. Outgoing mail was still being stamped with the address I prefer for folks to use, and incoming mail was arriving just fine. Unfortunately, for reasons I still don’t quite understand, Gmail suddenly began sending me a copy of every email message I’ve ever archived. My Inbox began filling with hundreds of messages, and I couldn’t stop the process.
As a result, my ability to send Gmail has been suspended. (Attempting to do so produces a dialog box that says, “You have reached a limit for sending mail.”) Happily, I’ve got other accounts I can use to send messages through … otherwise, I could be silenced for up to three days with no way to send outgoing mail.
(Hitting the limit doesn’t just happen to spammers and klutzes like me. I’ve come across stories from many other users, most of whom were trying to tell all their contacts, “Hey, I’ve moved to Gmail!” Their first 400 or so alerts went out … and then Gmail shut them down.)
I understand Google’s need to limit Gmail’s attractiveness to spammers. Still, this experience has exposed Gmail’s slimy underbelly to me in more ways than one:
– Gmail offers zero customer support. You can forget getting answers from Google about this or any other issue. Customer support is pretty much limited to FAQ’s and a customer-driven message board. I never found a direct way to contact customer service, and those who have used the web-based form say they never get answers.
– Gmail doesn’t give its customers important information. What’s the upper limit on outgoing mail per day, exactly? How long will my outgoing email be shut off? (The dialog box I see just says, “Wait a while.” How long is a while?) How will I know when my service will be restored? Details like these are important; until Google releases them, Gmail users should be cautious about using the service.
– Complaints fall on deaf ears. Any criticism of the system tends to get met with, “Hey, it’s a free service. Don’t like it? Don’t use it.” To an extent, this is true — Gmail is a powerful email service that is offered to the public at no charge. Still … using that “free service” status to squelch valid questions and objections strikes me as more than a little churlish.
If you’re using Gmail — especially as your primary or exclusive email solution — you should be aware of these issues.