Thursday, September 29, 2005

Google ripped Gmail from Chinese site?

Gmail seems to be copied from (belongs to ISM) is not online currently.
Check out its home page at web archive here:
Seems familiar with Google's Gmail? Read on... 
Gmail's long-lost Chinese cousin?
 ISM claims its Gmail service preceded Google's

By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service
September 26, 2005

The multicolored letters look familiar. It's Gmail, but there's something different here.


you use Google's (Profile, Products, Articles) Gmail free Internet e-mail service, you can be forgiven for doing a double take when you visit the ISM Gmail Web site at After all, the two Web sites share more than a passing resemblance to each other.


ISM Gmail is a free Web-based e-mail service offered by Beijing ISM Internet Technology Development Co., a small Chinese e-mail provider and domain registrar based in western Beijing.


Like Google's own free Web e-mail service, the ISM Gmail service employs a logo comprised of blue, yellow, red, and green letters. And the sign-in pages of the two sites display a shared fondness for minimalist design; although Google prefers blue bars along the top and bottom of the page, while the bars on ISM's site are green.


At first glance, it's easy to assume that the Chinese site is just a knock-off of the better-known Google e-mail service. There's just one problem: ISM claims that its Gmail service was here first. And there's evidence to back up that claim.


For example, ISM registered the domain name on Aug. 1, 2003, according to whois information provided by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which oversees the .cn top-level domain. That registration date predates Google's April 1, 2004, announcement of its Gmail service by eight months.


Moreover, an ISM manager who identified herself using only her surname, Wang, claimed the company developed the multicolored ISM Gmail logo in 2003, long before Google unveiled its own colorful Gmail logo. "We didn't know their logo would look like ours," she said in a telephone interview.

That claim could not immediately be verified.


According to Wang, Google approached ISM about its use of the domain and the Gmail name in August 2004, shortly after Google launched its own Gmail service in the U.S. Those talks didn't go anywhere, and the two companies are no longer in contact, she said.

For its part. Google would only say that it's looking into the matter. "We are aware of this and are investigating," wrote Debbie Frost, a company spokeswoman, in an e-mail.


Any resemblance between the two Gmails is purely skin-deep. Once you get under the hood, things look quite different. For example, the user interface employed with ISM Gmail is nothing like that used by Google's Gmail: there are no conversation threads, no labels and no search function. There's less space too. Instead of the more than 1GB of storage space that Google makes available to its Gmail users, ISM offers each user 300KB of storage.


ISM doesn't offer ads tailored to the content of e-mail. Instead, the only advertisements on the ISM Gmail site are a banner ad for ISM's own domain-name registration service and a rectangular ad that says, "In association with (Profile, Products, Articles)." But that's just for show.

"We don't have a relationship them. It's just a link," Wang said.


Today, ISM Gmail -- which stands for Global Mail -- has more than 300,000 users, Wang said. But getting the service up and running wasn't cheap, she said, claiming that ISM spent 20 million renminbi ($2.5 million) developing the technology for the service.


The ISM Gmail service is meant to be multilingual and currently supports two languages: English and the simplified version of Chinese. In the future, ISM plans to expand the number of supported languages to more than 50, including traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, Wang said.

For now, when users sends an e-mail, they can choose between using an English e-mail address ( or an e-mail address that uses a username and domain name written in Chinese characters.


In a country like China, where most people can't read or understand the alphabet, having e-mail addresses and URLs (uniform resource locators) written in the local language has long been viewed by some observers as a crucial step toward making Internet access widely accessible.


While that may be true, offering a bilingual e-mail service hasn't helped ISM turn a profit with Gmail. The company had originally planned to charge users for its e-mail service but that wasn't possible after Google began offering its own service for free, Wang said. Once that happened, users felt that ISM should also offer its Gmail service for, she said.



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