I've seen three people this week get locked out of their gmail accounts "to keep [their] systems healthy" or for "unusual activity". Google have been doing a good job recently of tackling accounts used for spam, but all of these cases were just regular people locked out for no reason, for hours or days. In the last week Google announced Google Reader would be no more after June. Like they closed down Wave. And Picnik And Buzz. And they're completely within their right to do so. Google are an advertising company, and public company, and their goal is to make money. By selling ads. In their own words,
They've come up with some quite amazing ideas, products and services for an ad company, but I think it's quite important to remember that. Especially if you've come to rely on their services.
I don't imagine that Google will close Gmail down any time soon. Why would they: they're constantly serving you focussed ads while you use it, and that makes them money. When there is a problem with the service though, what do you do? And what do you do if you've come to rely on something, like Reader, goes away? You can't get a refund if you never paid.
Call me old-fashioned, but if you've paid for a service, like the olden days, you're in a better position. Of course, your paid-for service could also close or be disrupted. In these cases though, as a customer, you have rights that have been enshrined in law (at least they have in this country). By paying you enter into a contract, and therefore you get to demand certain level of service and have a channel open for if or when you need it.
And then there's the ads. Call me old-fashioned, again, but I think that advertising has become one of the worst things about modern life, and targeted advertising has only made it worse.
The internet, being online, digital life: whatever you call it, it's here to stay. And for many of us it is no longer a separate part of of our lives, it's just another aspect. Before the internet, we didn't get, or expect, all our services for free, nor did we tolerate constant targeted advertising, and having our personal communications trawled through by international companies. Why now? Isn't it time we made the internet grow up? We don't have to throw it out to get back to old-fashioned customer service.
I've been informed (by @bigpumpkin, thanks!) that the Gmail you get with Apps For Business is ad-free. I should have realised this since we actually use it at work (though I rarely use the web interface). This is of course the solution I was suggesting: you pay for the service instead of having it ad-supported. How about a personal-tier version of this then, Google?