I’ve recently been growing increasingly uncomfortable with my dependence on some of Google’s vast array of free (as in beer) products like Gmail. Now, I’m not really very concerned with privacy per se; what bothers me a lot more is the very unclear business model behind it. And particularly for email, which is (still for most people) the root of identity on the Internet.
From Google’s Q2 2011 earnings, we see that advertising on Google sites are 96% of its revenue. We don’t know how much of the advertising revenue comes from clicks on the search engine versus say GMail, but my guess is the GMail portion is very very small. Now I know GMail gets packaged up and sold to business as part of Apps For Your Domain, but how much income they get from that is unknown.
Under this premise that GMail is being subsidized by the core search business (which it may or may not be, I don’t know), what makes me particularly uncomfortable is that I’ve almost never clicked on a sponsored result in Google Search, and particularly not done so and paid for something. This means my email is effectively being paid for by other people. Who are these people and what are they doing? Seniors searching for online pharmacies I guess? I have no idea.
While at first I admit it was hard to resist “free”, I decided to just start paying actual money – directly – for email. By the recommendation of a few other people I chose Fastmail.fm, which is working out fairly well so far and I’m about ready to stop using GMail.
This means I’m also back to using Evolution. The only hiccup so far is that I find myself really, really missing the GMail conversation view. It’s simply a far faster and more effective way to read lots of email. Oh well, at least I have the source code to Evolution! I wonder what happened to that Summer of Code project for the conversation view…