On 01 April 2004, Google introduced Gmail as a beta, invitation-only web-based email service. Securing an invitation would be the the only way to sign up until 2007.
From the New York Times, on 31 March 2004:
Google, the dominant Internet search company, is planning to up the stakes in its intensifying competition with Yahoo and Microsoft by unveiling a new consumer-oriented electronic mail service…
As Microsoft’s MSN and Yahoo are preparing to attack Google’s role as the first place most people turn to carry out an Internet search, Google is hoping to counter those assaults by moving onto the turf its competitors have already claimed in providing e-mail services as part of their portals.
With many of us using our phones for email more than our laptops or desktops today, it may be hard to understand (or remember!) the impact Gmail had on computing.
The first true landmark service to emerge from Google since its search engine debuted in 1998, Gmail didn’t just blow away Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the dominant free webmail services of the day. With its vast storage, zippy interface, instant search and other advanced features, it may have been the first major cloud-based app that was capable of replacing conventional PC software, not just complementing it.
As Gmail enters its 18th year, it is the most popular email platform in the world, with more than 1.8 billion users in 2021. And it’s the most popular web-mail application, followed by Yahoo!Mail and Outlook.
However, leading email client today (based on opens) is the Apple iPhone (47.1%) followed by Gmail (18.6%), Apple Mail (13%), Microsoft Outlook (9.0%) and Yahoo! Mail (5.7%). The mail client on the iPhone can manage multiple email accounts.
Continuing with the April Fool’s Day theme, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak formed Apple Computer on 01 April 1976. Their personal computer kits would become known as the Apple I computer.
Wozniak has in the past questioned the validity of April 1 as the founding date, claiming the document signed on April 1 represents the partnership formed to produce the PC board for the Apple 1 rather than Apple as a corporation. Generally, April 1 has become the date most closely associated with Apple’s foundation in tech folklore.
The company was not formally incorporated until January 3 1977, and was renamed as Apple Inc in January 2007.
Today, these two Silicon Valley giants have an almost unimaginable market capitalization (01 April 2022):