How Does Gmail Work? Google’s Story of Send Site Explains

May 15, 2012 6:00am
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Image credit: Google

Before you hit the “send” button on an e-mail, you might proofread your message. Or maybe you make sure you’ve included the right attachment. Or maybe, just maybe, you contemplate what is actually going to happen to that message once you hit “send,” where it’s going to go before it ends up in an inbox.

For those that fall into that latter camp, Google’s about to answer all your questions with its new Story of Send site. The entire site is dedicated to explaining just what happens to that e-mail message as soon as you hit send.

The site itself is beautifully designed, in a very Google-esq fashion. It explains — in pictures, animation, and video — what happens to your message, but here’s a brief synopsis: the message goes through your Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) pipes, over to Google, then to one of Google’s data centers, then to a server floor (where it is scanned for viruses, etc.), and then out to the recipient. And that message goes through those steps incredibly fast; Google says that more than 50 percent of e-mails sent through Gmail are delivered in less than a second.

Along that path, which is illustrated extremely well on Story of Send, Google explains a lot about the green, or environmentally friendly, technology it is using.

“One way we save energy is by keeping the temperature on our server floors at a warm 80 degrees. That means we don’t need as much energy-intensive air-conditioning,” the Smart Heat step explains.

And in there lies some of the motivation to explain to users just how Gmail works. The site was created by Google’s Green team.

“Along the way, you’ll discover everything from where we filter for spam and scan for viruses to how we’re minimizing our impact on the environment through energy efficiency and renewable power,” Erin Reily of Google’s Green team writes on the Google blog.

Head over to Story of Send now to check out just how your e-mail travels to get where you want it. Hitting “send” might never be the same.

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