Google Silently Chucked the Dot (.) in Gmail Addresses; Chaos Followed

Google Silently Chucked the Dot (.) in Gmail Addresses; Chaos Followed

Gmail was the most popular fad in the early 2000's when it was rolled out as an invite only free email service by Google. Everyone I knew wanted one.

What I did not know was that Gmail would, at any random time, change the rules of the email addresses, without any announcement, without as much as a whimper, and allow the chaos that ensued without taking responsibility for it. It is easy to label mis-delivery of emails as "spam" and get on with your day. No?

No.

Google ALLOWED Unique People to Create Gmail Accounts With & Without the Dot

There are email accounts in existence today, which are different only by a dot, and belong to two completely different people. Although I cannot give away the exact emails (due to privacy concerns—which Google should have respected as well), the facts I am quoting are absolutely real, about real people.

Google initially allowed two different people, in two possibly different parts of the world, with no overlap with each other, to create two unique email accounts, such as randomperson@gmail.com and random.person@gmail.com. These two emails were differentiated only and only by the dot. The spelling is exactly the same. For several years, these two email accounts functioned as two distinct email accounts. So far, so good.

Somewhere in the last 5-7 years, this rule changed, without any obvious notice. Maybe it was buried deep in fine print in the "updates to terms of service" in some email, but there was no public announcement, no media report, no mention anywhere. If there was any update on their site, it has long been deleted, only to be replaced with this simplistic note about how Google does not recognize the dot.

Google could have, at the very least, continued to service the existing Gmail accounts as two unique ones, and merged any new emails together, but it merged all historic accounts also, without any consideration of consequences.

Search is Hijacked

Knowing that internet search is dominated by Google, it is nearly impossible to find any mention of this little manoeuvre anywhere on the web. All tracks are covered. Any public forum discussions on the subject are met with gaslighting and denial of the problem itself, pointing to how Google does not recognize the dot. Google no longer recognizes the dot. But it once did. This fact has been entirely obliterated from the web in typical 1984 style.

Pandemonium

This problem is far more severe than people initially realize. The people who have these pairs of emails (with and without the dot) keep receiving each others' emails ALL THE TIME, with absolutely no support or resolution from Google. The email header where your email should be, but is instead the without dot version, says "Yes this is you!" on Gmail. Gmail assumes the two emails belong to the same person (when they obviously don't).

The wrongly sent emails include official documents (with addresses, phone numbers, personal details), bank statements, phone bills, subscriptions to newsletters, mutual funds statements, health insurance documents, official emails from work, and a lot more. This is not a joke. With so much detail about a person, there is very little left to not know about them, except perhaps their favourite colour.

Who is Going to Hold Google Accountable?

The problem with having a problem with Big Tech is that their hegemony in multiple areas of digital space thwarts attempts at gaining visibility or gathering support for your problem. For example, any blog post that discusses this or any other similar failing on the part of Google, will never make it to searches. Any video will not get indexed or discovered on YouTube, or worse, will be removed from it. It only gets more complicated from there.

Common people will have neither the power, nor resources, nor time to challenge Google legally on their failings. To the common man, this translates to moving out of Gmail for all email requirements. But the ~15 years of mis-delivery of emails still remains a failing, which will never get accounted for, or fixed. What is done, will not be undone. It cannot be undone.

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Arti Agarwal

Economist, data science, marketer, ex-SLB. Alum IIT Roorkee, MIT.

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