In 2004, six months after Google launched Gmail, famed tech journalist Steven Levy told Bill Gates that he had already used half of the two gigabytes of free storage that Gmail offered. Gates couldn't believe it. "What've you got in there? Movies? PowerPoint presentations?" Gates asked, mind blown.
Levy recalls telling Gates how even just a few months after he started using e-mail, Levy had already "consumed more than half of Gmail's 2-gigabyte free storage space."
Gates "looked stunned, as if this offended him" when he heard this, Levy writes of their conversation.
"How could you need more than a gig?" the Microsoft co-founder asked, according to Levy. "What've you got in there? Movies? PowerPoint presentations?"
Gates proceeded to pepper Levy with questions. "How many messages are there?" he asked, Levy recalls. "Seriously, I'm trying to understand whether it's the number of messages or the size of messages." Levy writes, "After doing the math in his head, he came to the conclusion that Google was doing something wrong."
Good call, Bill.
The lesson in this little fable, Levy says, is that Bill Gates was brought up in a world where code was written for closed systems and storage limits were an ever-constant threat.
At Google, storage is cheap, it's online, and with 193 million users, it's definitely not doing much wrong.