I use Gmail because it’s the only free mail provider that offers a large amount of server space and doesn’t have an obnoxious name, like ‘Hotmail’ or ‘Yahoo!’ Unfortunately, Gmail does a lot of inanely stupid things that make me hate it most of the time.
For example, Gmail feels compelled to protect me from myself by insisting on scanning all of my mail attachments for the big bad “viruses” that they might contain. This is a huge waste of my time. First of all, I think I’m competent enough not to download and execute sketchy attachments from people I don’t know. More importantly, even if I did execute attachments irresponsibly, they’re not going to do anything to my Ubuntu computer. Maybe the virus scanner should check which operating system the user is running before it wastes everyone’s time protecting Linux from a non-existent threat.
If Gmail were reasonable, it would at least give users the option of turning off its malware-scanning function. But since Google thinks it knows better than me what I need, it’s entirely impossible to disable this nonsense.
Gmail also forbids the attachment of file types that it thinks might be dangerous. Of course, rather than actually analyzing the contents of an attachment to determine the hazard associated with it, Gmail just looks at the file extension. In other words, if I wrote a malware script named gmailblows.exe, I wouldn’t be able to attach it to an email. But if I renamed the script to gmailblows.exe.txt, it would be a perfectly safe attachment, according to Google’s state-of-the-art virus scanner. On the other hand, if I try to send a legitimate file whose name ends in ‘.exe’, Gmail will block the message, no matter what’s in the file itself.
Gmail also frustrates me because its integration into Evolution, the mail client that I prefer, leaves a lot to be desired. It works alright about 65% of the time, but it occasionally becomes really slow for no discernible reason. It also does a bad job keeping my folders in sync, and the ‘Trash’ directory is an unstable mess.
In part, Gmail’s poor performance under Evolution can be blamed on the Evolution developers, who should spend some time figuring out why it hangs arbitrarily, etc. That said, every other IMAP mail service that I’ve used in Evolution–and I’ve tried at least a half-dozen–has worked fine. The reason for Gmail’s exception is that, instead of implementing the IMAP protocol the way everyone else does, Google concocted a bastardized version, which it has yet to document sufficiently. As a result, it’s hard to make Evolution work properly with Gmail.
If Google wanted to practice what it preaches, it would develop its software in accordance with standards and, even if the source remained proprietary, at least provide decent documentation. Of course, if Google took steps to make Gmail work better with offline clients like Evolution, fewer people would use the Web-based version, meaning they’d miss out on all the advertisments that Google generates for them by reading their email. And if privacy invasion and exposure to consumerist advertising weren’t part of the email experience, where would society be?