Users of Web mail for the last decade all have them: e-mail accounts that they set up and have vacated to move on to another e-mail application.
Google on Aug. 19 opened the door for users who wish to move e-mail content and contacts from AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and other Web mail accounts to the search engine maker's 5-year-old Gmail application.
Users who want to migrate e-mail content must go to Gmail Settings, click on the Accounts and Import tab, and click "Import mail and contacts." A window will pop out asking for the e-mail account alias the user wishes to migrate e-mail from. Once that is entered, users are asked to enter the password for that account.
After the password is entered, Gmail users will see checked boxes inviting Gmail to import contacts, import mail, import new mail for next 30 days and add labels to all imported mail. Users can then check the boxes they desire and click to start the import process.
Google says it will take anywhere from several hours to two days before the imported content appears in Gmail. However, users can go about their Web surfing business, closing Gmail and their browser; Gmail will continue importing mail and contacts in the background. Users can check the status of their imports by returning to the Accounts and Import tab under Settings.
Google first offered this migration only to new account users in May, but on Aug. 19 extended the offer to all of Gmail's millions of users.
Google Gmail Software Engineer Marcin Brodziak explained the logic behind catering to new users before opening up the migration to all Gmail users:
"We made this feature available for all newly created Gmail accounts first, since people new to Gmail benefit most from being able to move their stuff with them. But many old-time Gmail users (including us) also have old accounts lurking. Often, these accounts predate Gmail, and occasionally we have to log into them to look at some old confirmation e-mail or find the e-mail address for someone with whom we've lost touch."
Google also likely wanted time to gird its storage infrastructure for the task of absorbing what will no doubt be petabytes of content from users' older e-mail accounts. Indeed, in addition to supporting various flavors of Microsoft Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo Mail, Gmail is supporting migration from NetZero, Sprint, Verizon and 40 others.
The migration offer comes after Gmail surpassed AOL as the No. 3 most visited e-mail Website in the month of July, according to market researcher ComScore.
Gmail, which emerged as a beta program in April 2004 and ceased to be a beta just last month on July 7, logged 37 million unique monthly users in July, compared with 36.4 million from AOL. The migration option could help Google pad its rising Gmail market share even more.
Read more about this Gmail migration tool on Techmeme here.