June 7, 2009

Why GMail doesn't let you sort by size

GMail is awesome in so many ways. The model of not having to worry about deleting stuff because storage is free is exactly right from the user's perspective. So, at first glance, it seems perfectly reasonable that there is no way to see, sort or search for emails by their (or their attachments) size. After all, simple is good, right? Why expose a feature to users that they don't need?

Then consider GMail's business model: They sell storage. Sure, they give me a very generous amount of free storage (7 GB and counting), but with no way to meaningfully delete stuff, it is pretty much guaranteed that any consistent usage will eventually bump into that limit. And when they do, they are obligated to start paying Google for storage.

It isn't cheap either. They offer 10GB for $20/year, but that is a red herring. By the time my GMail account is full, I'll already have used about 8GB from GMail, plus 1GB from Picasa, and probably some more storage from other services. This storage fee covers all of Google's services - so the reality is that the minute I need more storage, I'll have to go directly to the second tier - which conveniently (for Google) is 40GB for $75/year. Keep in mind 40 GB of local personal storage is less than $10 - so you are paying a serious premium for use of the cloud (and don't forget that Google is already making money on advertisements in your GMail).

This is a real issue - people are looking for ways to reduce their GMail storage (i.e., here, here and here). However, I don't believe this is one of those features that Google just hasn't gotten around to - this is surely a very important, strategic and subtle business plan. They give away GMail for years, and then tens of millions of customers start finding themselves owing Google pretty big - forever. And since Google never changed their pricing policy, they can fairly claim that people knew what they were getting in to.

But if Google really wanted to be fair, they would let users control how much of Google's service they used. And for GMail, this means letting people meaningfully control their disk usage.


GoldChain said...

Agreed 100%!! There is NO good reason why they haven't implemented a sort by size option except if they feel it will make them money.

Philippe said...

You can sort by size if you use a desktop client, and if you use IMAP any message you delete will be deleted from your email account.