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What's the most popular email service in the world?

17 September 2014, 1:15 pm EDT By Laura Rosenfeld Tech Times
Gmail seems to be the cool email service to use nowadays, but are most people actually interested in using it? Here's the email services people are actually searching for.  ( Ian Lamont / Flickr )

Whether you like it or not, you are how you email.

Each email service has its own personality. Gmail is the cool and hip service these days, and it seems like anyone who doesn't use it is automatically judged. Yahoo Mail evokes images of those custom avatars you could create. If you use Hotmail or AOL Mail, you're basically still living in the 1990s.

Or are you? With Google's dominance of the Internet and basically the world today, it would seem like everyone would have rushed to sign up for Gmail not only for the ease of using it but also for its added cool factor. However, Gmail may not be as dominant as we think.

With search and email being two of the most popular online activities, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, we were curious to see how the popularity of various email services stacked up against one another in Google search as it's common for people to use Google search to navigate to their email rather than type in the URL.  

Using Google Trends, we compared the popularity of five of the best known email services — Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, AOL Mail and Outlook — in Google search worldwide. And while this definitely does not tell us which email service is the most widely used (more on that later), it does provide some intriguing insights into the interest of these email services around the world.

So without further ado, here's the popularity of each of these email services in Google search worldwide from 2004 to the present.

As you can see from the above graph, Google searches worldwide for Hotmail are the most popular, followed by Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook and AOL Mail. There's a slight uptick in the popularity of searches for Gmail starting in August 2014, so it may be closing in on Hotmail's search popularity.

Something to keep in mind with this data is Google Trends data is normalized, which means the graph shows how many searches have been done for a certain search term, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. This means that the points on the graph are divided by the highest point and multiplied by 100, which puts them on a zero to 100 scale. This also means that downward and upward-sloping lines suggest decreasing and increasing popularity of a search term, respectively, not a decrease or increase in the total number of searches.

The regional interest for each of these search terms is also fascinating. For instance, the countries most interested in searching for Hotmail seem to be overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking countries mostly in South America, including Colombia, Venezuela and Peru. It's also important to note here that the searches for each country have also been standardized, with the highest point on the map at 100 and the figures for the other points representing search volume relative to that number. For example, here Colombia is the highest point at 100, and Venezuela's 81 figure means the intensity of searches in that country is 81 percent of the intensity of Colombia's searches.

(Photo : Google Trends)

For the other search terms, it looks like smaller countries are mostly searching for them on Google. Googling Gmail is most popular in the Pacific island nation Kiribati, the African country Cameroon ranks No.1 for Yahoo Mail searches and Mayotte, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa, takes the top spot for Outlook.

Surprisingly, search for AOL Mail was the most popular in the U.S., followed by the U.K. But with a name that stands for "America Online," even though other countries have their own versions, this isn't totally unexpected.

The numbers that have been reported for the actual number of users for each email service are actually very similar to the popularity of each email service in search. Hotmail is the most popular email service with 325 million unique visitors, followed by Yahoo with 298 million and Gmail with 289 million, according to data from ComScore released in 2012. However, some reports have said Gmail surpassed Hotmail in 2012, and now has more than 500 million users, so the popularity rankings of email services may depend on who you ask.

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