To many of us, the @ symbol is second nature. Used for email addresses and tweets alike, we’ve grown so accustomed to it that its nature isn’t generally of interest – unless you work for The New York Times.
According to the Times, the “at sign” (or, a “snail” if you’re Italian and a “monkey” if you’re a southern Slav) is a fairly recent invention, dating back 473 years. Reports state that a Florentine merchant that went by the name Francesco Lapi used the @ symbol in a letter he wrote on May 4, 1536. Back then it was used to indicate a measure of weight or volume, known as an amphora. The letter read, “There [is] an amphora of wine, which is one thirtieth of a barrel, is worth 70 or 80 ducats.”
The reason that it became commonplace for keyboards in today’s world, is because it was shorthand for “at the price of” in the records of English merchants. And, in 1971, engineer Ray Tomlinson used it “to indicate that the users was ‘at’ some other host rather than being local” for the very first emails ever sent.
Most of us view spam as an annoyance with the greatest cost associated with junk email being our time. However an even bigger price is being paid by the environment, a problem underscored by the startling amount of junk email that now flutters across the web. We're talking about 62 trillion spam messages in 2008 alone, according to a report released by McAfee.
In terms of the environment, McAfee researchers say each piece of junk email emits 0.3 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2), or a combined 17 million metric tons of CO2 for all spam-related emissions in 2008.
"The amount released into the atmosphere is significant," said Dave Marcus, director of security research for McAfee. "Spam has a big carbon footprint. It's something people be aware of."
Most of the spam-related greenhouse gas emission -- 80 percent -- comes from the energy used by PC users to view, delete, and sort for legitimate messages, McAfee says. The silver lining here is that by taking steps to reduce spam, you not only reclaim your inbox, but also can have a noticeable impact on the environment.
Google, never one to sit idly by while there are small improvements to be made on their own web-based email client, announced this week that they would be releasing a new, experimental feature that would allow users to insert images into an email rather then sending them as attachments.
The new feature, aptly named “Inserting images,” will allow users to send email messages with inline images that show up at an exact, user-defined location inside the body of the message. Once you enable the feature in the Labs tab in Gmail’s settings, you’ll be all set to go. So be sure to check it out and let us know what you think!
The launch of a new free email service with the promise of a full gigabyte of storage space was no prank when Gmail was first made available on April 1, 2004, otherwise known as April Fools Day. Five years later, the wildly popular (among techies) webmail continues to benefit with frequent feature enhancements (Mail Goggles, anyone?). And five years later, Gmail is still in beta.
"Google Mail was born out of an experimental project created by a few engineers at Google five years ago," a Google spokesperson said. "From the beginning, we wanted Gmail to be a faster, cleaner, and more intuitive solutin for people's email."
Surprisingly, Gmail has yet to gain mass appeal among the general public, despite having long since abandoned its invite-only system for signing up. Accorded to Hitwise stats, Gmail only claimed 6 percent of the webmail market last year, compared to Yahoo Mail's 55 percent and Microsoft Windows Live at 26 percent. However, Google's Gmail service continues to grow, and to the tune of 43 percent last year according to comScore.
Chances are you know what Gmail is and have been using it for quite some time, even if Google’s service is technically still in beta. But did you know that Gmail can be used for many other practical functions other than sending and receiving e-mail? With the appropriate extensions and setting hacks, you can make Gmail do things that other web-based e-mail services and even some desktop clients cannot. In this guide, we will show you how to implement the ten hidden features you need to know about Gmail and introduce you to five of our favorite Gmail Labs add-ons. You may already know or use some of these features, but there are sure to be a few in here that you do not.
Last fall, Google Labs introduced "Mail Goggles," a feature which, once enabled, tasks email composers with solving a few simple math problems before firing that off that email that could potentially fire you back, assuming you were about to send an angry letter to your boss from a drunken stupor. But you don't have to be drunk to regret sending an email, so Google Labs' latest feature lets you unsend a Gmail message you might later regret.
Called "Undo Send," you'll have five seconds to take a mulligan on that Gmail message, which gives you enough time to declare 'Oh s**t!' and still unsend that message you inadvertently set for "reply all," but leaves little time for fumbling the mouse in a panicked state.
"Adding a delay could be potentially frustrating," said Keith Coleman, Google product manager. "We may decide to add longer options."
Coleman indicated there's an option to increase the unsend time window to 10 seconds, though after installing this feature, we saw no option beyond 5 seconds.
You can find the "Undo Send" feature in the Labs tab under Settings.
Comcast has frozen more than 8,000 users names and passwords for Comcast email addresses, a full two months after they were uncovered on the document-sharing site, Scribd.
Scribd reportedly has removed the list thanks mostly to The New York Times’ Brad Stone, who told them once he caught wind of the matter. Stone, who was contacted by one of the customers on the list, writes, “The list on Scribd was one of four results, and it also included his password, which was a riff on his love for a local sports team. Statistics on Scribd indicated that the list, which was uploaded by someone with the user name vuthanhan2004, had been viewed over 345 times and had been downloaded 27 times.”
Comcast claims that the accounts information ended up on the list through a series of phishing attacks on users, and that it wasn’t an internal leak.
According to a new study by Nielsen-Online, social networks and blogs are now the 4th most popular online activity. Collectively referred to as "Member Communities," Nielsen says these are visited by over two-thirds of the online population, putting them "ahead of personal email." It's also the fastest-growing sector out of the top four, which also includes search, portals, and PC software and email.
"Social networking has become a fundamental part of the global online experience," says John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online (PDF). "While two-thirds of the global online population already accesses member community sites, their vigorous adoption and the migration of time show no signs of slowing. Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large."
Facebook, which ranks as the most popular social network, draws three out of every 10 people online each month across the nine markets tracked. And it's not limited to any single age group. According to Nielsen, the biggest increase in visitors during 2008 came from the 35-49 demographic.
The report, titled "Global Faces and Networked Places," attributes some of the growth to the prominence of mobile phones, noting a "big increase over last year" in the number of users visiting Member Communities through their handsets.
Surprised by any of this? Hit the jump and sound off.
So you’re the type of person that’s in a different country each week of the month, eh? Tired of telling people where you are each time you email them? Well, it looks like Gmail has your back with their latest feature – a signature that automatically lists where you sent your email from.
The signature detects your location by using your public IP address, so it is noted that it won’t always be accurate. “For example, if you’re at Heathrow airport, IP detection may put you in Germany,” writes Marco Bonchi on the Gmail blog.
If there are certain people that you don’t want knowing your location, you can take the location signature out of specific emails at any time.
Spam senders suffered a few temporary setbacks in 2008, including an FTC bust on HerbalKing, one of the largest global spam networks allegedly responsible for sending billions of unsolicited emails, and the shuttering of web host McColo Corp, who the FTC said was responsible for roughly 75 percent of the world's spam. It may have taken a few months, but spam levels have now risen back up to 150 percent, according to Postini Message Security.
"As spammers fill the void left by McColo, it's reasonable to anticipate a decreasing rate of growth as spam reaches November 2008 levels," wrote Amanda Kleha of the Google message-security team on the company's blog. "However, since the November levels weren't even the peak for the year, and since spammers appear to be quickly recovering, the question remains: Where will spam volume top out in 2009? Will it be near the November 2008 level? The April 2008 level? Or higher?"
Symantec also notes a concerning rise in spam, noting that it has seen spam volumes return to within 5 percentage points of the pre-McColo shutdown numbers. In other words, the break is over and barring another bust, spam levels could rise even higher than what they were before a series of crackdowns took place.