Published: 11 December, 2022

Has Microsoft Outlook Beaten Google Mail – Looks Like It Has

Gmail’s popularity is falling off a cliff.

In September of 2021, they controlled 35 25% of the market. But by October of 2022, they only controlled 27% of the market. This means that within these 13 months, Gmail’s market share fell by a whopping 7.3%. This might not seem like a large amount at first glance, but it is when you consider that basically everyone with an internet connection uses email. There’s estimated to be about 4.26 billion email users worldwide. So this means that Gmail either lost 306,000,000 users, or the people who are opening new email accounts are choosing other email clients. By far, it’s probably some combination of both. But why?

Since Gmail launched, the consensus has been that Gmail is the go-to email client. Whether we’re talking about personal use, business use, or fake email use, Gmail has been the bomb. I would even argue that some other email clients have a negative stigma surrounding them, especially Yahoo and Hotmail. So how did Gmail go from being the go-to email service to losing a fifth of its market share within a year? To understand why Gmail is losing so much market share, we’ll first have to understand why they were so popular in the first place.

And for this, we’ll have to return to April Fool’s Day of 2004. If you didn’t know, Gmail was launched as a kind of joke. Sundar Pichai, the current CEO of Google, was interviewing with Google at the time. And when interviewers asked him about his thoughts on Gmail, he even thought it was just an April Fool’s day joke. The main reason that this theory was so popular was that Gmail’s offering was laughably absurd. At the time, Yahoo and Hotmail offered two megabytes of storage and five megabytes of storage, respectively. So when Google came out with one GB of storage on April Fool’s Day, people assumed it was surely a joke.

But April Fool’s Day Came And Went

But April Fool’s Day came and left, and Gmail was still operational. This caught people by surprise, but Google was just getting started. In 2005, they would increase the storage to 2GB, and in 2007, they would increase the storage to 4GB.

Very quickly, Gmail went from being a joke to being the most desirable email client. I don’t think I have to tell you the horrors of trying to ensure that your entire email archive is less than two or five megabytes. But storage was just the first of many advantages of Gmail. Gmail also boasted the best spam filters, the best UI, convenient grouping, and the ability to search through your email. And yes, the other popular services didn’t even let you search. But while everyone wanted Gmail, not very many people could get it. And this brings us to the second appeal of Gmail, which is scarcity. Here’s the thing. Offering these crazy storage spaces that were magnitudes above the competition turned out to be extremely hard, so they had to heavily limit the number of users that used the service. For most companies, this would have been a major scaling bottleneck. But Google made it into an advantage by making Gmail invite only. People could only open a Gmail account if they were invited by someone who already had a Gmail account.

So it’s if you had a Gmail account, you were very much the cool kid in the friend group. It wasn’t until nearly three years after its initial launch that Google made Gmail available to everyone. By this point, most people who didn’t yet have a Gmail account were dying to switch.

So Gmail’s market share continued skyrocketing. It wasn’t just everyday people who craved Gmail either. Google was very much getting schools and institutions on board as well. Once again, thanks to their features. For institutions, Google offered custom domain names with zero scheduled downtime for maintenance, 30GB of storage, up to unlimited storage based on your planet, and 24/7 phone and email support. Once again, Google blew the competition out of the water, so switching was another brainer. But this was the end of the era of voluntary gmail adoption. While Gmail was indeed the superior choice, much of the adoption that followed the forced adoption for people who had already bought into the Google ecosystem, google’s strategies throughout the 2010s probably seemed completely harmless.

But for the people who didn’t buy into the ecosystem, well, it was a pain in the neck. What Google started doing was merging all of its platforms and requiring that you have a single Google account for all of them. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal today, but back in the day, people got pretty heated about this, and likely the biggest culprit was Google plus. If you’re unfamiliar with Google plus, I don’t blame you because it was a massive failure. Google plus was basically google’s attempt at growing its own social media platform and competing against Facebook. It seems harmless at first glance, but the problem was that instead of enticing people to join Google plus because of its features, it forced it down people’s throats. For example, in 2011, Google modified the Gmail account creation process such that you had to create a Google plus profile, which was the case up until 2014. I think you can see why this would be annoying, but this wasn’t even close to being the worst infraction. Likely their worst infraction was their policy regarding YouTube. Comments in 2013. YouTube mandated that people must have Google Plus accounts if they wanted to leave comments. For obvious reasons, people were enraged, and even YouTube’s cofounder Jared Kareem, would call out Google. Kareem would post, quote, why the f do I need a Google Plus account to comment on a video? Despite all the backlash, google would not untie YouTube and Google up until 2015. While Google Plus was undoubtedly the worst offender, the same fundamental argument applied to Gmail accounts as well.

Google made it so that you needed a Gmail account if you wanted to do anything else on Google. Do you want to use Google Drive? Well, you’re going to need a Gmail. Do you want a YouTube account? Well, you’re going to need a Gmail.  Do you want to download apps from the Play Store? Well, you’re going to need a Gmail. The most surprising part was that this monopoly extended outside of Google services as well. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the login with the Google feature. While this feature is no doubt super convenient, it just further strengthened the Google monopoly and forced more people to get Gmails, even if their use case had nothing to do with using Gmail for email.

A similar case could be made with the education side of Gmail as well. If universities wanted to use Google Classroom or roll out School by Google Calendars, they needed a Google account, and they needed all of their students to have Google accounts as well. Now technically, many Google features are available without having an account, but we all know that these services are way better if you have an account. Trying to use Google services without an account is like trying to use AirPods with a Windows computer. It works, but it’s not all that great. All of this brings us to where we are today. Google has become one of the most dominant email clients in the world by leveraging features, scarcity, and forced adoption. But their dominance is slowly starting to fade away. So what’s happening? Well, the answer is pretty simple. Google is running out of trump cards. Let’s start with features. One of Gmail’s original selling features was its massive storage.

But the competition has not only caught up, they’ve overtaken Google.

Take Outlook, for example. Outlook offers 15GB of storage just for email alone, and you get an additional five GB through OneDrive.

So Gmail is by no means league ahead of the competition anymore. Moving on to Gmail’s second selling factor of scarcity. No one thinks having a Google account is cool anymore; it’s just the norm, and everyone already has one.

This also makes it extremely difficult for Google to force more adoption because there’s no one to convince. Something else that we should mention is that Google was never really the ideal choice for students or professionals because you can’t leverage Microsoft Office as much. The reason that many schools and universities embraced Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets is that they made collaboration extremely convenient. But if you put the convenience and collaboration aspects aside, there’s no question that Microsoft Office is the superior service. And over the past ten years, Microsoft has very much made strides with their online Office products and collaboration features. Microsoft Office Online is free, but that doesn’t even matter to institutions because they usually already have many Office 365 subscriptions.

So many institutions are switching to Outlook to create synergies between email cloud storage and Microsoft Office. We should also mention that while schools and universities very much embraced Google, companies never did.

Another catalyst that stole the market away from Gmail is Apple’s recent mail privacy protection program. This program makes it harder for email marketers to track down your IP address and your mail activity. And in an age where everyone is worried about juggernauts like Google and Facebook collecting your data, it’s not surprising that people are taking every chance to protect themselves. This is made easy. The easier fact is that you don’t have to do anything to take advantage of this program. It would be easier to take advantage of this program than not take advantage of it. All you’d have to do is use the inbuilt mail app on iPhones instead of downloading the Gmail app. And while people have been wary of the iPhone email app for years, it seems like this new feature is very much pushing people towards it. And we can see this in the market share data. In September of 2021, app will have 50% market share, but today they have nearly 60% market share.

And I suspect this will only grow with time as people become more aware of the importance of data protection. At the end of the day, Gmail is by no means dying or becoming irrelevant. You very much still need a Gmail account to surf the Internet freely, but it does seem like people are using other services for email more and more frequently. Some of the surface-level reasons for this are that competing email clients have caught up in terms of features. They integrate better with Microsoft Office, and Google has reached market saturation. But if we look beyond that, it appears that we’re seeing a larger trend towards privacy. People are more aware than ever of how these companies can offer their services for free and how they make money. It appears that Apple has caught onto its consumer awareness, and they’re very much framing its business with this in mind. They’re positioning themselves as the big tech company that doesn’t collect data. This can be seen with their Ask Not to Track feature and their mail privacy protection program. It’s not just Apple who is jumping onto this trend either.

And given that Google already doesn’t have that much room to grow, I suspect that Gmail’s popularity will continue to trend downwards.

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