From New York Times:
Google E-Mail Service Ready for All
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 14, 2007
Filed at 1:26 a.m. ET
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google Inc.'s free e-mail service will shed the final remnants of its invitation-only restrictions Wednesday, extending the reach of an increasingly popular product that has emerged as a vital cog in the online search leader's expansion efforts.
Invitations will no longer be required to join the nearly 3-year-old ''Gmail'' service in the United States, Canada, Mexico and a swath of Asian and South American countries where the Mountain View-based company previously limited the number of users.
With those restrictions now lifted, Gmail will be open to all comers worldwide for the first time since Google unveiled the service on April Fool's Day in 2004.
''It's a pretty momentous time for Gmail,'' said Keith Coleman, Google's product manager for the service.
Although it will no longer require invitations to sign up, Gmail is retaining its ''beta,'' or test, status, signaling that Google still considers the service to be a work in progress.
Making Gmail more widely available is important to Google because other key products like instant messaging and calendar management are tied into the e-mail service, company co-founder Sergey Brin said an interview. ''It has become a real cornerstone for us.''
Because Gmail users often remain logged into Google's Web site while they conduct online searches, the service also helps the company's engineers learn more about individual preferences -- knowledge that can help deliver more relevant search results and foster more loyalty.
The decision to lift all invitation requirements on Gmail signals Google finally believes it has adequate computing capacity to accommodate the generous amount of free storage provided by the e-mail service after investing heavily in additional data centers. Gmail offers each account at least 2.8 gigabytes of storage -- enough to fill about 1.4 million pages.
Read the rest here.