Released on April 1, 2004 (no joke), Gmail is Google’s free Web mail service. The application was originally invitation only but was opened to the public in February 2007. While Web mail apps from Yahoo and Microsoft have close to 1 billion users worldwide, Gmail ranges in the tens of millions of users. While the Yahoo and Microsoft apps seem fairly static, Google’s Gmail engineers are constantly adding new and sometimes silly features, including Mail Goggles.
Google Talk is a VOIP and instant messaging service. If this sounds like the poor man’s version of Skype, well, it is. Unlike the popular Gmail, too few people use Google Talk, prompting some market experts to argue that Google should buy Skype for VOIP market share. Talk, released in beta in August 2005, is just another communication piece to Google Apps.
Orkut is Google’s first take on a social network, dating to January 2004. Like Gmail, Orkut launched to invitation-only status, but launched broadly in October 2006, much too late to gain traction versus the popular MySpace and Facebook platforms, which now have more than 220 million users combined. Curiously, Orkut is big in Brazil and India.
The newest 20 percent project to go public, Google Moderator began as a tool to let Googlers attending a tech talk submit a question and let other participants vote on whether or not that question should be asked. Now the public can use it to help the most popular and relevant questions to rise to the top of the queue.
Google actually opens its great money-making machine AdWords to non-profits, offering free AdWords advertising to certain charitable organizations.