Skip to content

Google GMail continues to own the email market, Microsoft is catching up


Back in 2009 I wrote about Google's GMail emerging as the dominant platform for email. It had 46% of all accounts I sampled from American bloggers for the Ph.D. thesis of a friend. Blogging was big back then :-).

Now I wondered how things have changed over the last decade while I was working on another email related job. Having access to a list of 2.3 million email addresses from a rather similar (US-centric) demographic, let's do some math:

Google's GMail has 39% in that (much larger, but still non-scientific and skewed) sample. This is down from 46% in 2009. Microsoft, with its various email domains from Hotmail to has massively caught up from 10% to 35%. This is definitely also due to now focussing more on the strong Microsoft Office brands e.g. for Office 365 and Yahoo, the #2 player back in 2009, is at 18%, still up from the 12% back then.

So Google plus Microsoft command nearly ¾ of all email addresses in that US-centric sample. Adding Yahoo into the equation leaves the accounts covered at >92%. Wow.

Email has essentially centralized onto three infrastructure providers and with this the neutrality advantage of open standards will probably erode. Interoperability is something two or three players can make or break for 90% of the user base within a single meeting in Sunnyvale.

Google is already trying their luck with "confidential email" which carry expiry dates and revokable reading rights for the recipient. So ... not really email anymore. More like Snapchat. Microsoft has been famous for their winmail.dat attachments and other negligence of email best practices. Yahoo is probably busy trying to develop a sustainable business model and trying to find cash that Marissa didn't spend so hopefully less risk of trying out misguided "innovations" in the email space from them.

All other players are less that 1% of the email domains in the sample. AOL used to have 3.1% and now the are at 0.6% which is in the same (tiny) ball park as the combined Apple offerings (, at 0.4%.

There is virtually no use of the new TLDs for (real, user)1 email. Just a few hundreds of .info and .name. And very few that consider themselves .sexy or .guru and want to tell via their email TLD.

Domain owner   2009 2018
GMail   46.1% 38.6%
Yahoo 11.6% 18.3%
Microsoft 9.9% 35.4%
AOL 3.1% 0.6%
Apple 1.0% 0.4%
Comcast 2.3% 0.2%
SBCGlobal 0.9%   0.09%

  1. There is extensive use of cheap TLDs for "throw-away" spam operations

IMAPFilter 2.6.11-1 backport for Debian Jessie AMD64 available


One of the perks you get as a Debian Developer is a email address. And because Debian is old and the Internet used to be a friendly place this email address is plastered all over the Internet. So you get email spam, a lot of spam.

I'm using a combination of server and client site filtering to keep spam at bay. Unfortunately the IMAPFilter version in Debian Jessie doesn't even support "dry run" (-n) which is not so cool when developing complex filter rules. So I backported the latest (sid) version and agreed with Sylvestre Ledru, one of its maintainers, to share it here and see whether making an official backport is worth it. It's a straight recompile so no magic and no source code or packaging changes required.

Get it while its hot:

imapfilter_2.6.11-1~bpo8+1_amd64.deb (IMAPFilter Jessie backport)
SHA1: bedb9c39e576a58acaf41395e667c84a1b400776

Clever LUA snippets for ~/.imapfilter/config.lua appreciated.

Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird Menu font sizes

Open Source

The font size Mozilla chose for Firefox and Thunderbird menus looks awfully large on Netbook screens. It wastes space and is visually at odds with reasonably sized content. And for some weird reason you can set the content font and size via the menu but not the font and size for the drop-down menus themselves.

As the "Theme Font & Size Changer" Add-On doesn't work reliably and phones home way too often (showing a nag screen), I dug back into how to do this "manually". Probably a decade after I fixed this the first time...

You need to create the file ~/.mozilla/firefox/*/chrome/userChrome.css with * being your profile directory (<random_number>.default usually) and you most probably have to create the chrome directory first.

The same for Thunderbird resides in ~/.thunderbird/*/chrome/userChrome.css. Here again the chrome directory will most probably need to be created first.

/* Global UI font */
* { font-size: 10pt !important;
  font-family: Ubuntu !important;

needs to go into these files for Firefox or Thunderbird respectively. The curly braces are important. So copy & paste correctly. Symlinks or hardlinks are fine if those files do not need to differ between your web browser and your email client.

Restart Firefox and/or Thunderbird to see the effect.

Obviously you can choose any other font and font size in the snippet above to suit your taste and requirements.

If you are massively space-confined and don't mind a quite ugly UI, check out the Littlefox Add-on. Ugly but optimal use of the minimal screen estate with very small screens.

Google GMail dominating the email market


Google's GMail was launched in April 2004 and only in February 2007 Google dropped its invite system to open up to the general public acc. to Wikipedia's history of GMail. That's some five years of operations up to now.

It kind of amazed me how many people I know have GMail as their primary mail provider. So I took the chance today to get a bit of statistics to check my gut feelings:

A friend of mine selected some (mostly American) bloggers that have indicated specific interests in a topic related to his Doctoral thesis. This sample ended up to be 1,375 people. These folks have 295 different email domains. Only.

A whooping 46% of the (rather random) sample use GMail, 12% Yahoo, 8% Hotmail and about 3% AOL. While Yahoo has some foreign domains in the sample (,, see mostly American bloggers above), these add up to around 0.1% of the sample so it's not really significant.

Distribution of American blogger's email domains

This data is in no way representative, but still wow. Google basically has a monopoly on search and now seems to have a close-to-majority footprint in personal email.

I guess the dominance is currently larger in the States than in Europe or Asia as GMail has only gradually learned languages beyond English.
Large local providers should also have some foothold in these markets. Similar to the Comcast and SBC customers still significant in sample depicted above. Just the local providers in Europe and Asia will be somewhat stronger (for now). Google is also aggressively targeting corporations with hosted email and apps now so one can expect further and accelerated growth in that area. Quite a number of companies are considering using hosted email instead of the conventional mail system they have operated on site for many years now.

So while Gina Trapani recommends "Break Google's Monopoly on Your Data: Switch to Yahoo Search", may I humbly point out: It's becoming quite impossible to just keep your emails between the recipient and the addressee these days.

Even if you personally do not use GMail, Google can (technically) still profile you because a huge chunk of people you communicate with send from GMail and receive and store your emails there.

Nearly all email that is sent also passes spam filters before delivery. Google bought the Postini spam filter in 2007. That anti-spam service is used by many enterprises and even city governments, see here.

So time to consider (unencrypted) email as what it has always been: The digital equivalent of a postcard.
Just now Google has become the postmen. All of them, every second shift. You should hope they're not nosey. Or send letters.


11.05.2014: Benjamin Mako Hill has written a blog entry Google Has Most of My Email Because It Has All of Yours doing analysis for his own email box. He found a third of his inbox emails come from Google and - as he doesn't usually reply to newsletters and the like - more than half of his own email replies (57% in 2013) end up at GMail. He published his code in case you want to do the analysis on our own email.