Google's free e-mail service, Google Mail-or Gmail, as it is commonly known-surpassed AOL as the No. 3 most visited e-mail Website in the month of July, according to research firm comScore. Gmail, first released in April 2004, logged 37 million unique monthly users in July, compared with AOL's 36.4 million.
Google's AOL leapfrog represents a 46 percent increase in growth from the same period last year, when Gmail logged 25.3 million visits. Yahoo Mail, growing 22 percent from the same time last year, bested all competitors, more than doubling Gmail users with 106.1 million unique monthly visitors.
Compared with July 2008, AOL's e-mail service slid 19 percent to 36.4 million unique monthly users in July 2009, down from 45.1 million during the same period last year, another troubling sign for the beleaguered Internet service company. Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail grew to 47.1 million monthly users, up 3 percent from the 45.8 million comScore tracked in July 2008. Windows Live Hotmail is currently the second most-used e-mail service in the United States.
Farther down the list, Comcast's WebMail ranked fifth, sliding 5 percent to nearly 8 million monthly users, compared with 8.3 million during the same period last year. AIM Mail and AT&T WebMail, placed sixth and seventh, respectively, both saw large drops in their communities, with AIM Mail falling 22 percent to 5.8 million monthly users and AT&T WebMail dropping 39 percent to 2.7 million users. Verizon, RoadRunner and Incredimail.com rounded out the top 10 e-mail providers, with the last, Incredimail, posting a 48 percent drop in unique monthly visitors compared with July 2008.
Google posted the largest growth compared with July 2008, increasing its audience by 46 percent. Gmail moved out of beta status just this summer, along with the rest of the Google Apps suite. As the company creeps up on Hotmail (Yahoo is still comfortably ahead in users), Google is stepping up marketing efforts to entice the business community to use Gmail. Google has been touting institutions like Northeastern University, which moved its HuskyMail application to Gmail, and the University of Virginia, which has contracted with Google to provide lifetime e-mail for all alumni.
Microsoft and Yahoo are also working on upgrades and features for their e-mail clients: In July, Microsoft upgraded its Quick Add feature in Hotmail with a host of features lifted from its Bing search engine platform, while Yahoo is tinkering with the look and feel of its Mail Accounts option.