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Why email is crucial to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo

EmailGoogle, Microsoft and Yahoo. These three companies rule webmail with Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the three largest email services on the Internet.

What might escape a lot of people, though, is just how important email services are for the online presence of those companies (yes, even for Google). To give you an idea, let’s look at some rather interesting website traffic numbers.

Webmail share of site traffic

Alexa can give you an estimate of how many people visit various parts of a website, or to be precise, which subdomains are visited the most.

  • Gmail uses the subdomain mail.google.com.
  • Hotmail uses the subdomain mail.live.com.
  • Yahoo Mail uses the subdomain mail.yahoo.com.

And here is the data from Alexa, showing how much of each site’s traffic is made up of webmail.

Google.com subdomain traffic

Live.com subdomain traffic

Yahoo.com subdomain traffic

In other words:

  • Gmail gets 23% of the traffic to Google.com.
  • Hotmail gets 39% of the traffic to Live.com.
  • Yahoo Mail gets 20% of the traffic to Yahoo.com.

The actual percentages aren’t really all that important here. What’s important to note is that the subdomains used for webmail have a ranking near or at the top for all three companies.

Imagine the hit to their web presence if they didn’t have these webmail services.

Actual user numbers

Once again, we’re going to have to make do with estimates, because there simply is no official, public data on exactly how many users these webmail services have. We’ll turn to a source we’ve found helpful in the past: Google Doubleclick Ad Planner. It provides worldwide traffic estimates for a lot of sites.

According to Doubleclick Ad Planner:

  • Yahoo Mail has 340 million users worldwide.
  • Hotmail has 450 million users worldwide.

Those numbers are monthly unique visitors to mail.yahoo.com and mail.live.com.

Unfortunately, we can’t do the same with Gmail, because it’s one of the sites omitted by Ad Planner (which includes some, but not all, Google services).

However, Gmail is considered to be the third largest webmail service. There are estimates placing it around 200 million users worldwide. So it should be somewhere between that and the 340 million user mark we saw for Yahoo Mail.

It should be said that these are stats from just one source. Others have somewhat different numbers, for example Comscore. What you rarely get to see, though, are worldwide numbers. That’s one of the reasons we really like Doubleclick Ad Planner.

That said, regardless of what source you’re looking at, we are talking about hundreds of millions of email users.

That’s right, email isn’t dead yet

Email has been declared dead several times over the past few years. The truth, however, is that we still depend on it more than most people realize, and there is no replacement in sight.

Google knows this. Microsoft knows this. Yahoo knows this. They know that their email services are still extremely important.

And lets not forget all the intangible benefits they get from having a ton of email users and email traffic pass through their systems:

  • It’s a statistics goldmine.
  • It’s a platform they can keep building on.
  • It’s a platform where they can recruit users to other internal services (like Google tried to do with Buzz, for example).

Now imagine if one of these three companies would somehow lose their webmail service. It would be a disaster for them. There would then be hundreds of millions of users who would turn somewhere else for email.

So if you’re one of those people saying email is dead, you probably don’t work at Google, Microsoft or Yahoo…

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