Jennifer Laycock

Jennifer Laycock


Many in the SEM world are familiar with the new free email service offered by the folks at Google. Gmail not only offers free email accounts with an excellent interface and search options, it also includes up to 1 Gig of storage space, an unheard of feature for a free email service. Gmail is still in its beta phase and the only way to get an account is to be invited to join by someone that is already in the system.

Because of the exclusive nature of the service, sites and forums have sprung up all over the Internet allowing users to beg, sell and trade Gmail invites with those on the outside. One Gmail user named Drew Olanoff who frequents such boards noticed that American troops serving overseas were starting to pop up on the lists requesting invites.

Currently, many members of the military use free email services like those offered by Hotmail and Yahoo! to receive email and files from home. Because of the limited storage offered by those services, soldiers often have to delete old images and files from home to make space for new ones. The vast storage space allotted to Gmail users would allow these troops to save more pictures and videos from home for quick and easy access the next time they log on.

Taking note of the situation, Olanoff sent an email to Wil Wheaton (who was a cast member in Star Trek the Next Generation) offering to provide him with a Gmail account if Wheaton would promote the idea on his Web site. Wheaton took him up on the deal and challenged his readers to share their Gmail invites with the troops as an act of goodwill. A short while later, two readers setup Web sites to serve as clearinghouses for requests and invites.

So what can you do to help? Well, you can check the two sites that have been setup to match our troops up with Gmail users that have invites available. You'll find them at and Visit their message boards, and if you have invites available, think about donating some of them to the cause.

Be sure to read the rules of the forums first. To avoid passing accounts on to those trying to cheat the system and claim to be service members, both sites suggest that you send invitations only to troops that have requested a Gmail account by sending you an email from an actual military email address. (U.S. troops have accounts ending in .mil, Canadian troops have email addresses ending in Those looking to donate invites can also stop by and look through the posts for requests from military service members.

Additionally, if you've got a Blog, or access to a media outlet, passing on the story would be a great way to get more invitations matched up with more troops.
June 22, 2004

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Gmail for the Troops