Concerns over identity verification and out-of-control spam no longer appear to be an issue.
Google on Wednesday plans to open up Gmail, its free e-mail service, to everyone worldwide.
"In keeping with our tradition of Gmail holiday announcements -- Gmail was launched on April Fool's Day -- we're inviting everyone worldwide to share the love this Valentine's Day," said a Google spokesperson. "Good relationships require good communication, after all, and we think Gmail is a great tool for staying in touch."
Google began public testing of Gmail on April 1, 2004. Initially, Gmail was an exclusive club -- an invitation from another Gmail user was required. In August 2005, Google opened Gmail up to those willing to submit a mobile phone number as a means of identity verification and as a way to limit the number of accounts spammers might be able to abuse.
Such concerns no longer appear to be an issue. "Since we launched Gmail, we've paid particular attention to combating abuse of the system, including building tools for spam detection and taking measures to ensure that spammers have a difficult time sending their spam messages and getting these messages delivered," explained a Google official. "We are confident in our tools and systems, but also continue to work on improving them. We know that our users have been very happy with the small amount of spam they've received in their Gmail accounts, and we will take necessary measures to ensure that this remains the case for new and existing Gmail users everywhere."
Last week, Google removed the phone number requirement in Africa, Brazil, Europe, and the Middle East. It remained in place in Asia, North America, and most of South America until today. Would-be Gmail users in other countries, including Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, have been able to sign up for the service without a phone number since last summer.
In the United Kingdom, Gmail is known as Google Mail because another company holds the "Gmail" trademark. Last month, the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, a European trademark body, rejected Google's appeal in another battle over the "Gmail" trademark with German businessman.
Google claims to have "tens of millions" of Gmail users, significantly fewer than the free e-mail services offered by Microsoft and Yahoo.
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