Mark Collins theorises a What If? scenario where Google pulls the plug on Gmail:
So what happens if Google kills Gmail. What if Google decides that processing billions of emails every day isn’t cost effective (I have never clicked a Google ad in Gmail). Perhaps Gmail users are unknowingly on borrowed time already or perhaps Gmail will die in 10 years time.
Think of the chaos if Gmail dies. Think of all the contacts you’ve liaised with over the years that know you by your Gmail address.
The sunset of Google Reader has made a lot of people very wary about the potential future of any Google products and it’s making people wonder what else Google might decide to discontinue.
However, Gmail is different from reader. Whilst a good proportion Gmail users may not use the web interface or have ad-blocking enabled, there’s going to be a lot of users who do use the web interface primarily, they’re our parents, family and friends who we recommended Gmail to. They just want to log into a website to send email and it’s these users who do see and (potentially) click on the ads. Don’t forget that these ads are generated by using the contents of messages. Google is undoubtedly the worlds’ leading advertising company and it has become very good and what it does. Whilst you or I may never use the Gmail web interface, Google is still building up an accurate profile of our interests and will use them elsewhere, on other parts of the Google network that you may log in to such as Google search results.
Gmail may not have a direct influence on Google’s income but it certainly contributes to the other areas that do.
If, for whatever reason, Google decided Gmail needed to be directly revenue generating, they’d just start charging for it. Too many people are too reliant on it and would be willing to pay. Google Apps for Domains provide paid-for Google accounts with Gmail so monetizing individual Gmail accounts would not be a big deal. Even if Google charged $1 per year, They’d make tens of millions a year.
I think if Gmail was to go the way of
Google Wave, Google Labs, Google Video, Google Desktop, Google Buzz, Google Reader then things might not be so good at Google.