Google's Gmail, the free email service with one gigabyte of storage that is still in beta testing, continues to spark debate about its controversial email scanning for the purpose of serving up ads. And while many people have expressed feelings ranging from discomfort to outrage at the idea, the demand for this free email service is definitely there. Every Gmail beta user was given two free invites for other users. As you can see, on eBay, these invites have been selling for upwards of $50-$60 each (though I've read that in the past some have sold for as much as $300)... for a free email account. It seems to be related to the lure of a fresh email address. One auction I saw had a title that read something like, "Are you HOT? Are you a BABE? Get before it's gone!"

I'm still undecided on the Gmail issue. I've been using it for a couple of weeks, and I really like the program. I would even go so far as to say it's the best browser-based email I've ever used. It's fast, easy to use, and it makes it really easy to sort and locate emails. It also refreshes automatically every couple of minutes, and the ads were unobtrusive. And it's free. Another thing- one gigabyte is a lot of space. It's the equivalent of 500 free Hotmail accounts. With that much storage, it's tempting to use Gmail to archive emails. And while I don't mind if a computer reads my email (I have spam filters that read them already), it is scary to think how easy it might possibly be for someone to quickly scan or search through every email I've ever received without having to tell me about it, let alone come to my house and show me a subpoena. Personally, I'm hoping Google can solve these privacy issues and launch Gmail, because it has a lot of potential.