Google Brings Gmail Back To Britain

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Users of Google’s email service in the UK will be able to use @gmail.com domain names from this week

British users of Google’s cloud email service will once again be given @gmail.com webmail addresses when they sign up for an account, following a five year trademark dispute which prevented Google from using the name Gmail in the UK.

Back in 2005, the search giant was forced to switch to the domain @googlemail.com, because it declined to pay £25 million to a company called Independent International Investment Research for use of the Gmail brand in the UK. Google claimed at the time that the asking price was “exorbitant”.

In a statement this morning, Google said the dispute has now been resolved, but was unable to disclose details of the settlement.

“After engaging in legal proceedings at the trademark office, we were able to reach a settlement with the party with whom we had the conflict,” said Google. “We are happy to have resolved this issue, and look forward to offering @gmail.com addresses to users in the UK.”

Saving 60 million keystrokes a day

From this week, anybody who signs up for a new account in the UK will get an @gmail.com address. Account holders who currently have @googlemail.com addresses will also be given the option to switch them over to @gmail.com.

“Since ‘gmail’ is 50 percent fewer characters than ‘googlemail’, we estimate this name change will save approximately 60 million keystrokes a day,” blogged Google software engineer Greg Bullock. “At about 217 microjoules per keystroke, that’s about the energy of 20 bonbons saved every day!”

Gmail caught up in privacy disputes

Google will be glad of some positive publicity for its email service, as Gmail has already had its fair share of controversy this year. In January, the Gmail accounts of Chinese activists were the subject of a high-profile cyber-attack, prompting Google to stop censoring search results in China and threaten to pull out of the country all together. In March, Google also added a new alert system to Gmail, which warns users if their account may have been compromised.

The search company has also come under fire for its Google Buzz social networking application. When it first launched in February, the application used Gmail users’ private address book contacts to establish lists of “followers” for Buzz and to “give Google users meaningful control over their personal data.”

However, only a week after its launch the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, charging that Google Buzz violated federal consumer protection law. “This is a significant breach of consumer’s expectations of privacy,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC, at the time. “Google should not be allowed to push users’ personal information into a social network they never requested.”

Google moved quickly to address the most privacy-intrusive aspects of Google Buzz following the fumbled launch, but the company has since been accused of having a “disappointing disregard” for the privacy of its users’ information.

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