Gmail launched in 2004, and was immediately a hit largely because they offered more free storage than anyone. It was more than storage that kept Gmail the leader in email, it was powerful features that were easy to use overall. Gmail was one of the first major applications to use AJAX (if you really want to know what this is, Google it, but it’s not important) technology, which almost all applications use today. They kept enhancing Gmail at a pace that made it nearly impossible for others to keep up.
Gmail now “suffers” from what most businesses (and technology) suffer from: It is now the establishment. Established firms (and technologies) have more customers (users) and years of legacy systems, which enable their business. A small startup comes along with new flashy technology and people say, “Why doesn’t Gmail (or any company/software) do that?” People are drawn to what is new and shiny, and suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), so they try the new software/business.
Gmail is still an incredible email client, and it is impressive to see how what they originally built still lives on in the current application. However, Outlook email has caught up with many of the features, and in some ways surpassed it. Microsoft has stopped acting like the establishment (in some ways) and more like a startup. There are real startups that are also competing for email clients and receiving accolades, as well as funding.
It’s harder to be the establishment and maintain the leading edge on all fronts. Google still dominates search by a long shot and shows no sign of becoming the establishment for search, but some day that too will happen.
This blog is not about encouraging you to leave Gmail and try Outlook or something else. The point of this blog is that most software and businesses become “the establishment.”
Don’t become stale. maintain your fresh perspective and startup-like flexibility and energy. Do something bold and build from there.