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Many of us have grown used to communicating with our friends through Facebook, bypassing plain old email. There is also WhatsApp, iMessage, Twitter direct message and many other messanger services. But plain old email is not dead. Whether it's to communicate with companies that you ordered stuff from or to send your resume we you apply for a new job - you still need your email address many times throughout the week.
The all offer similar features but there are some small differences
Google shocked other email providers when GMail was launched giving everyone a free 1GB of data. All other free webmail providers including Microsoft's now depcrecated Hotmail service, had a lot less free space available, most of the time around 50MB. Suddendly space was not an issue any more.
That was in 2006 though. Times have moved on and customers have become accustomed to large amount of storage space. The size of email attachments has increased and nowadays new users are unfamiliar with the concept of cleaning up your inbox as we had to do in the past in order to save storage space
GMail feel behind its major rivals in terms of the storage it offers. With the launch of its Outlook service Microsoft just removed all limitations and gave users unlimited storage space. Yahoo is offering 1 TB of free storage which is virtually unlimited unless you plan on storing hundreds of movies in your inbox.
All email providers now have excellent search functionality in their inboxes. Although we found Google to still have an edge there. Somehow Google seems to be better in returning relevant results from your inbox. That could also be because Google knows about your general preferences from your websearch behavior but that is pure speculation.
One big difference is that Microsoft doesn't support IMAP. For users that like to view their emails in an external email client such as Thunderbird that's a big no-no. Outlook does support POP3 though which is a valid alternative.
Aliases are another features where GMail is falling short. Both Outlook and YahooMail are now offering the creation of aliases. Aliases, in essence, work like a second email address but integrated into the same inbox. This can be really useful when you require multiple accounts at the same web service or you simply want to keep all of your business contact separate from your personal contacts.
Outlook definitely has the cleanest design of all three email services. Everything is really nicely cleaned up and stuff is easy to find.
GMail still essentially looks the same as it did almost 10 years ago. Since then, there hasn't been a need for a major revamp because unlike other services the product has been incredibly successful. Once, GMail looked really clean as well but now it's quite cluttered compared to Outlook. Perhaps Google's new Inbox product is the way forward. There's a lot less clutter in it but some usability concepts are quite revolutionary and reviews so far have been mixed.
In the end personal prefences differ and all interfaces have their pros and cons.
GMail was once the leading email application. It still is a great service but it has fallen behind its competitors in terms of free storage and the cleaniness of its interface. It's time for GMail to catchup to it's competitors.
Microsoft, through Outlook.com, created a great service and deserves to come out up front in this competition.
One big argument for using GMail is many users will need an account anyway if they are using Android. A lot of the services, such as the play store are tied to your GMail account. So if you have it anyway you might as well user it.
All three are services great products. They are all mature email web services and can all be recommended. In the end the choice of a webmail provider depends on your use case. If you want to have alias email addresses, which do make a lot of sense, then GMail is not an option. If you depend on the user of IMAP because that's what your external email client supports then you won't be able to use Outlook.