What Gmail does better than its competitors

Does Gmail perform better than its competitors on a number of levels? Don Reisinger thinks so.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
4 min read

As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time wading through e-mails, finding the best e-mail service is paramount in my life.

Realizing that, I've done my fair share of shuffling from one e-mail program to the next--trying to find the best service that not only offers speed and stability, but also reliability and spam control. And although e-mail services are getting better, it's abundantly clear that few offer the kind of experience I'm really looking for in an e-mail client. But Google's Gmail app is different. It's better than its competition on a number of levels and provides the kind of e-mail experience that's simply unrivaled online.

Spam, Spam, Spam

I've used practically every e-mail service on the Web and I can say, without a doubt, that Gmail blocks the most spam. To those who open a new account, spam may not be a serious concern. Your spam folder will likely remain empty for a while until your new e-mail address makes its way into the wild. But for my e-mail address, which is widely available and easily attainable, spam is a constant headache.

On services like Yahoo Mail, Windows Live Hotmail, and AOL Mail, the spam blocker tried but failed on too many occasions. In fact, dealing with spam in my already bloated in-box was a daily occurrence that got worse as more messages piled up. But Gmail is different. Right now, I have thousands of messages sitting in my spam folder that never made their way to my in-box. Even better, I can say with all honesty that I only see about two or three spam messages per day in my in-box--not perfect, but much better than anything the competition is offering.

Google Apps

Maybe it's not fair to compare e-mail clients on the basis of additional apps, but I'll do it anyway. After all, Google is competing with the likes of Yahoo and AOL--two major Web companies--and I don't see why these two can't release apps that provide an even greater value proposition to users.

There's something so appealing about receiving an e-mail from someone who attached a Word document or Excel spreadsheet and being given the option to open that attachment in Google Docs. And being able to switch to Google Calendar and Reader from Gmail cuts down on time spent on managing my day. Maybe that functionality appeals to me because I prefer using apps like Google Calendar and Reader to keep me organized and "in the know", but I honestly can't see myself using another e-mail client knowing how invested I am in other Google apps. Suffice to say that my affinity for Gmail stretches beyond e-mail.


Gmail's filter feature is the best in the business. Period. Unlike its competitors, which try to provide a filter tool that simply re-routes incoming messages, Gmail delivers a power user's dream. In a matter of seconds, you can create a filter that searches through all incoming mail looking for specific people or keywords and once found, immediately categorizes it into a specific folder, forwards it on to someone else, or moves it to the trash, to name just a few functions.

With the help of Filters, using Gmail becomes an even more rewarding experience. Gone are the days of spending big chunks of your time attempting to find just one e-mail that's lost in a collection of thousands. Other e-mail services try desperately to provide the same kind of filter features, but they fall flat. In my experience, messages are either missed, the filter has performs the wrong function, or simply not ends up not working. In fact, Yahoo Mail's filter feature works only in its Classic e-mail app and according to the company, won't be available in the new interface until it's done "tweaking the Yahoo! Mail Filters option." Yikes.

Annoying ads

Anyone who has used Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, or Windows Live Hotmail knows all too well that the annoying ads are in abundance. But when you load up Gmail, it's an entirely different story.

Sure, there are ads on Gmail, but unlike the other services, they're not intrusive in any way. I never notice them when I'm working with the program, but when I load up Yahoo Mail or try out Hotmail, I'm inundated with ugly display ads that reduce the service's screen real estate and generally take away from the experience. Granted, ads don't have any impact on the viability of an e-mail service, but doesn't it stand to reason that if you're not forced to look at blinking ads while working in your e-mail, you'll be a happier user?

I certainly think so.

Conversation Displays

I realize there are many people out there who enjoy the "classic" style of displaying e-mails based on their arrival, but I'm not one of them. I like that Gmail groups an entire e-mail conversation into one and forgoes the use of individual strands. The latter strikes me as outdated and useless today in a world of constant e-mail communication.

That said, I realize my opinion isn't the most popular. Yahoo and AOL Mail are more popular than Gmail and each employs the "old" display style, suggesting that users prefer that over Gmail's style. But I think that's more of a reaction to what users know than to what they would like. In fact, I'm willing to bet that if those people were forced to use Gmail for a week, the vast majority would dump Yahoo or AOL in favor of Google's client as soon as a flurry of e-mails between two parties broke out and they needed to go back to find a particular message. Finding that message couldn't be easier in Gmail.