If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.
Scuttlebutt that Google was about to offer a free email service had leaked out the day before. But the idea of the search kingpin doing email was still startling, and the alleged storage capacity of 1GB—500 times what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered—seemed downright implausible. So when Google issued a press release date-stamped April 1, an awful lot of people briefly took it to be a really good hoax. (Including me.)
Gmail turned out to be real, and revolutionary. And a decade’s worth of perspective only makes it look more momentous.
I still remember getting that Google press release and thinking, “This is the stupidest April Fool’s Day prank ever.”