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April Fool’s Day joke! What people thought when Google changed Gmail 20 years ago

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Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin loved pulling pranks, so much so they began rolling outlandish ideas every April Fool’s Day not long after starting their company more than a quarter century ago. One year, Google posted a job opening for a Copernicus research center on the moon. Another year, the company said it planned to roll out a “scratch and sniff” feature on its search engine.

The Google Inc. Gmail logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone.(Bloomberg)
The Google Inc. Gmail logo is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone.(Bloomberg)

The jokes were so consistently over-the-top that people learned to laugh them off as another example of Google mischief. And that’s why Page and Brin decided to unveil something no one would believe was possible 20 years ago on April Fool’s Day.

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It was Gmail, a free service boasting 1 gigabyte of storage per account, an amount that sounds almost pedestrian in an age of one-terabyte iPhones. But it sounded like a preposterous amount of email capacity back then, enough to store about 13,500 emails before running out of space compared to just 30 to 60 emails in the then-leading webmail services run by Yahoo and Microsoft. That translated into 250 to 500 times more email storage space.

Besides the quantum leap in storage, Gmail also came equipped with Google’s search technology so users could quickly retrieve a tidbit from an old email, photo or other personal information stored on the service. It also automatically threaded together a string of communications about the same topic so everything flowed together as if it was a single conversation.

“The original pitch we put together was all about the three ‘S’s” — storage, search and speed,” said former Google executive Marissa Mayer, who helped design Gmail and other company products before later becoming Yahoo’s CEO.

It was such a mind-bending concept that shortly after The Associated Press published a story about Gmail late on the afternoon of April Fool’s 2004, readers began calling and emailing to inform the news agency it had been duped by Google’s pranksters.

“That was part of the charm, making a product that people won’t believe is real. It kind of changed people’s perceptions about the kinds of applications that were possible within a web browser,” former Google engineer Paul Buchheit recalled during a recent AP interview about his efforts to build Gmail.

It took three years to do as part of a project called “Caribou” — a reference to a running gag in the Dilbert comic strip. “There was something sort of absurd about the name Caribou, it just made make me laugh,” said Buchheit, the 23rd employee hired at a company that now employs more than 180,000 people.

The AP knew Google wasn’t joking about Gmail because an AP reporter had been abruptly asked to come down from San Francisco to the company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters to see something that would make the trip worthwhile.

After arriving at a still-developing corporate campus that would soon blossom into what became known as the “Googleplex,” the AP reporter was ushered into a small office where Page was wearing an impish grin while sitting in front of his laptop computer.

Page, then just 31 years old, proceeded to show off Gmail’s sleekly designed inbox and demonstrated how quickly it operated within Microsoft’s now-retired Explorer web browser. And he pointed out there was no delete button featured in the main control window because it wouldn’t be necessary, given Gmail had so much storage and could be so easily searched. “I think people are really going to like this,” Page predicted.

As with so many other things, Page was right. Gmail now has an estimated 1.8 billion active accounts — each one now offering 15 gigabytes of free storage bundled with Google Photos and Google Drive. Even though that’s 15 times more storage than Gmail initially offered, it’s still not enough for many users who rarely see the need to purge their accounts, just as Google hoped.

The digital hoarding of email, photos and other content is why Google, Apple and other companies now make money from selling additional storage capacity in their data centers. (In Google’s case, it charges anywhere from $30 annually for 200 gigabytes of storage to $250 annually for 5 terabytes of storage). Gmail’s existence is also why other free email services and the internal email accounts that employees use on their jobs offer far more storage than was fathomed 20 years ago.

“We were trying to shift the way people had been thinking because people were working in this model of storage scarcity for so long that deleting became a default action,” Buchheit said.

Gmail was a game changer in several other ways while becoming the first building block in the expansion of Google’s internet empire beyond its still-dominant search engine.

After Gmail came Google Maps and Google Docs with word processing and spreadsheet applications. Then came the acquisition of video site YouTube, followed by the introduction of the the Chrome browser and the Android operating system that powers most of the world’s smartphones. With Gmail’s explicitly stated intention to scan the content of emails to get a better understanding of users’ interests, Google also left little doubt that digital surveillance in pursuit of selling more ads would be part of its expanding ambitions.

Although it immediately generated a buzz, Gmail started out with a limited scope because Google initially only had enough computing capacity to support a small audience of users.

“When we launched, we only had 300 machines and they were really old machines that no one else wanted,” Buchheit said, with a chuckle. “We only had enough capacity for 10,000 users, which is a little absurd.”

But that scarcity created an air of exclusivity around Gmail that drove feverish demand for an elusive invitations to sign up. At one point, invitations to open a Gmail account were selling for $250 apiece on eBay. “It became a bit like a social currency, where people would go, ‘Hey, I got a Gmail invite, you want one?’” Buchheit said.

Although signing up for Gmail became increasingly easier as more of Google’s network of massive data centers came online, the company didn’t begin accepting all comers to the email service until it opened the floodgates as a Valentine’s Day present to the world in 2007.

A few weeks later on April Fool’s Day in 2007, Google would announce a new feature called “Gmail Paper” offering users the chance to have Google print out their email archive on “94% post-consumer organic soybean sputum ” and then have it sent to them through the Postal Service. Google really was joking around that time.



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Nikhil Kamath alerts investors on ‘hand-picked stocks’ WhatsApp scam: ‘Use common sense’

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Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath informed investors that he has never had any WhatsApp group where he shares “hand-picked” stocks as advertised by a group. The group claims to assist people in picking the right stocks and Nikhil Kamath said that “this is obviously not from me” as he urged people to use a little “common sense”.

Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath alerted investors about a scam on Whatsapp.
Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath alerted investors about a scam on Whatsapp.

“Scam alert, this is obviously not from me, I have never had or have any WhatsApp groups, nor do I give tips etc. Please report these… Also to all the brands who reach out, I don’t do paid promotions/collaborations/ads/paid speaking engagements of any kind. Please stop spamming, and everyone use a little common sense please,” he said along with an image of the fake advertisement.

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What did the scam advertisement claim?

The scam advertisement showed that the WhatsApp group had details of stocks handpicked by Nikhil Kamath that would rise in April. The ad asked investors to join the WhatsApp group which would share their picks of reliable stocks every day as it said, “First 1,000 members get it for free.”

See Nikhil Kamath’s post here:

Earlier Nikhil Kamath advised fellow entrepreneurs in India to not open franchises of global brands in India but try to take Indian brands to the world.

He said, “To all my entrepreneur buddies, the future may be to take Indian brands global, not franchise global brands in India. The Indian narrative is getting cool globally, we have mystique, royalty, history, artisan, handmade, exotic, and so much more to sell.”

He added, “What was yesterday a garment manufactured in India called John, Peter and Louis something and marketed by western models, could be tom Subko, Hatti Kaapi, 11.11 etc sold in New York with the faces of Indian artisans who spent hours on each product individually.”



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RBI ban on Bank of Baroda World app: Finance ministry’s likely plan on frauds

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Union finance ministry may propose stricter measures to protect citizens from cyber fraud, it was reported. This comes after an increase in incidents of frauds, including the Bank of Baroda World app scam, the Times of India reported citing sources who “mentioned a recent inter-ministerial meeting focused on bolstering cybersecurity and tackling financial fraud”, it noted.

A security official walks past an emblem of the Reserve Bank of India at the RBI headquarters, in Mumbai.
A security official walks past an emblem of the Reserve Bank of India at the RBI headquarters, in Mumbai.

What was RBI’s action on Bank of Baroda World app?

In October 2023, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stopped Bank of Baroda from onboarding new customers on its mobile app ‘BoB World’ citing material supervisory concerns. The bank said in response that it had already carried out corrective measures to address the concerns.

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“The Reserve Bank of India has, in exercise of its power, under Section 35A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, directed Bank of Baroda to suspend, with immediate effect, any further onboarding of their customers onto the ‘bob World’ mobile application,” RBI said in a statement.

“Any further onboarding of customers of the bank on the ‘bob World’ application will be subject to rectification of the deficiencies observed and strengthening of the related processes by the bank to the satisfaction of RBI,” it added.

What report said on steps Finance Ministry could take?

The report claimed that Finance ministry could be in support of stricter Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures and due diligence by banks and financial institutions while onboarding new merchants. This applies to Business Correspondents (BCs) as they may be more vulnerable to security breaches, as per the report.

Additionally, the ministry’s proposal also stresses on the need for improved data security and data protection practices at the merchant and Business Correspondents level. The report claimed that the RBI may ask banks to review concentration of Business Correspondents in areas with a high incidence of cyber fraud.



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Sakuma Exports shares to trade ex-rights today: Check price, allotment, ratio here

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Sakuma Exports rights issue 2024: The rights issue of Sakuma Exports Ltd will open on April 25 and will close on May 13. The rights issue record date is April 15 and the company will offer 78,984,298 equity shares at a price 25.3 per share. The issue size is 199.83 crores while the entitlement ratio is 33:98 which means 33 rights share for every 98 fully-paid equity shares held on the record date.

Sakuma Exports rights issue 2024: The rights issue record date is April 15 and the company will offer 78,984,298 equity shares at a price <span class=
Sakuma Exports rights issue 2024: The rights issue record date is April 15 and the company will offer 78,984,298 equity shares at a price 25.3 per share.

Sakuma Exports: What is rights issue?

In the rights issue, a company grants existing shareholders the right to buy new shares at a discount to the current trading price. The issue gives existing shareholders securities called rights while companies give shareholders a chance to increase their exposure to the stock at a discount price.

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Sakuma Exports: What to expect?

The Board of Directors of the company declared rights issue of equity shares for the eligible shareholders and said in a stock exchange filing that “the issue of 7,89,84,298 equity shares of face value of Re. 1 each (Equity Shares) to Eligible Equity Shareholders aggregating up to Rs. 19983.03 lakhs in accordance with applicable laws, including the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2018, as amended (SEBI ICDR Regulations).”

“The Board of Directors, in accordance with Regulations 30 and Regulation 42 of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Listing Obligation and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, 2015, as amended and Regulation 68 of the SEBI ICDR Regulations, at its meeting held today ie., April 8, 2024, has considered and approved April 15, 2024 as the record date for the purpose of determining the Eligible Equity Shareholders who are eligible to apply for the Rights Equity Shares, in the Issue (Record Date),” it added.



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