Dear Senator
Just a thought from 13 April 2004 about .

To: Senator Liz Figueroa <senator.figueroa@sen.ca.gov>
From: Derek Powazek <[myaccount]@gmail.com>
Subject: You are wrong about Gmail

Senator --

I've just read about your hopelessly misinformed attack on Google's new product, Gmail. And I can't help wondering, have you even seen the service?

As you can tell from my return address, I am one of Gmail's beta testers. I bet if you actually saw the system, your fears would be eased. There is nothing to worry about here. Yes, on some messages, sometimes, unobtrusive ads are placed on the side. But they are simply text links to websites, separate from the email message, and clearly labeled as ads.

The "billboard in your home" metaphor you used is totally inappropriate. There are no flashing colors, no obtrusive interruptions. If you'd seen the system, there's no way you could have made a statement like that.

I am a Democrat and privacy concerns are important to me. I also loathe being forced to consume advertising and therefore appreciate all your work on the California Do Not Call list. But I have to tell you, I encounter more vicious advertising walking down the street than I do in Gmail. Email itself is full of awful, flashing, html ads because of spam. If you want to fight the encroachment of advertising into our daily lives, I'm all for it, but fighting with Gmail before it even launches is picking the wrong battle at the wrong time.

I wonder if you also are aware that, when you send any email, it goes through a number of computers on route to its recipient. All of these computers "read" its content. That's just the way email works.

Google's Gmail is no different. But no human beings are reading my mail - just computers. And seeing a contextual link now and again in return for using a totally optional, free service, seems like a good trade to me. Remember, no one is going to be forced to use this system (unlike, say, the ads I'm forced to watch before a movie, or forced to stare at on Muni).

Google should be commended for introducing such a pleasant, well-defined, ad-based system. Google has consistently maintained a high standard of integrity with all of its ad services. When their competitors were selling keywords to the highest bidder and purposefully obscuring their search results to mislead consumers, it was Google that kept the separation between ads and search results clear. Their integrity in this area has been without blemish. (In fact, they have, at times, gone too far in protecting the integrity of their ad systems.)

You owe this fine company an apology. You owe it to the people who elected you to spend your time on California's many more pressing issues. And you owe it to yourself to simply give the system a try before you proceed with any legislation.


-- Derek Powazek

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This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page is an individual entry called “Dear Senator” that I wrote on 13 April 2004.

Before this, I wrote a little something called “Vampires and Cowboys” on 12 April 2004. After this, I wrote “Plays Well with Others” on 14 April 2004.

Vampires and Cowboys
I never liked vampires. The whole vampire genre, it seemed to me, was made for sex-starved girls and self-obsessed high...
12 April 2004

Plays Well with Others
I've had the pleasure to contribute to two other sites recently, and it's really so much more fun than talking...
14 April 2004

The Fine Print

Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »

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