Happy 20th birthday to Gmail!  Google announced it on April 1st, 2004 . . . and people initially thought it was an APRIL FOOLS’ JOKE.

Google already had a history of pranking people on April Fools’ Day.  In 2000, they posted a spinning wheel and said if you stared at it while thinking of a search term, Google could find it.  Instead, error messages popped up with things like, “Try again after removing hat, glasses, and shoes.”

People thought the Gmail announcement was also fake, because it bragged about people getting ONE FULL GIGABYTE of storage.  That didn’t seem possible in 2004, especially not for free.

It was enough to save over 13,000 emails when sites like Yahoo only had enough space to keep 50.  Plus, it made email truly searchable for the first time.

In the press release, co-founder Larry Page said someone using Google’s old email service complained that they constantly had to delete emails to stay under their four-megabyte limit.  So that’s how Gmail was born.

They announced it on April Fools’ Day on purpose.  They knew people would think it was a joke, and that it would be good press when everyone found out it wasn’t.

20 years later, there are roughly 1.8 BILLION active Gmail accounts.

The AP has a really good write up on it.