Join gmail! No, wait – don’t!

Yesterday I noticed that Google had added a ‘Click here to join Gmail’ link to the front of their site. This is a change from their registration invite process to date, and indicated they were ready to go out there full steam. However today that link has disappeared and the front page of Gmail has no ‘Sign up’ link visible. Strange.

The original Gmail signup model started by offering invites to people on Blogger, a recent Google acquisition. This invite, which I took up, gave a select group of people of controllable size access to the site so Gmail could test itself. All being well, as it seemed to be, they went onto the next step – giving everyone on the site three invites they could send to their friends. This I duely did, inviting a few folk along. Then a bit later, three more invites were added to the bundle, for me and the people I’d invited. This carried on for a while, with varying lengths of time between new allocations of invites. Now I have a bundle of 50 invites sitting there should I choose to use them.

What’s great about this model is that Gmail knew at all points in the process how many people could potentially sign up. There was never a ‘big bang’ release risk for them. Obviously this doesn’t work for all new systems but it makes a lot of sense, especially when you look at sites like fotolog that were constantly going down under the weight of new members (mainly from Brazil for some reason) and having to put in place premium charges suddenly. The other benefit of this model is that you’ve acquired a great net of connectivity between people, of the kind that friendster and others would kill for.

With this new open registration offering to anyone and everyone Google is obviously almost ready to go completely out in the world. Wonder how many people they got onboard that made them take off the offer so quickly?

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