Gmail accounts go up for bid

While many are waiting to buy Google stock, testers of the free e-mail service are auctioning off their invitations on eBay.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto
Google's initial stock offering isn't the only piece of the search engine company that's up for bid.

Beta testers invited by Google to take part in its new free e-mail service also received invitations to give to another person, but many are being auctioned on eBay, so far fetching bids as high as $61.

"Gmail is still in beta testing, so Google is strictly limiting how many people are using the service at this time," wrote one seller, who has five days left on the auction and six interested bidders. "This is an opportunity to get in 'on the ground floor' with this interesting new e-mail service."

Currently, 42 testers have listed their invitations on eBay, with one offering to sell an additional invitation outright--for a mere $199.

Google, which last month announced it was testing a new e-mail system, invited 1,000 people to join the trial. Gmail offers 1 gigabyte of storage and includes a news aggregation page and newsgroup interface, and allows users to search through their e-mail. The service has generated excitement, but not as much as Google's upcoming IPO.

But the service has also generated criticism before even rolling out to the masses. Gmail is under fire for inserting advertisements into messages based, in part, on contents. That controversy has led to one legislator calling for its ban.

That doesn't seem to be stopping folks from jumping into the bidding process to snatch up a Gmail account during this three-to-six-month beta test, however.