Geek My Mail

Netizens swap treats, immortality, even husbands for coveted invitations

Illustration by Smell of SteveMindaboo2 offered to swap her "slightly used husband. He can iron, do dishes," she wrote. "Most unfortunately for my waistline, he can cook."

Theoneinvite thought that was "some funny shit," so did SEATi—and 15 minutes later, Mindaboo2 made the trade.

Pman offered to "help O.J. Simpson look for the killers"; he got two invites in two minutes. Bigslim410 proffered "the secret to Dick Clark's immortality" (hinting darkly at Pringle's potato chips) and snagged an invite in a couple of minutes. Even Oli the Swiss, who promised one-third of Switzerland's contributions to international culture (chocolate, basically); Zentorrent, who donated a chance to meet Cher then reneged; and Nicola, who said she—by her own admission, "23 and hot enough"—would act out any Star Trek episode, all got invitations in short order.

All the happy swappers at Gmailswap.com make you believe in the power of love, not to mention the power of want and the power of suggestion, and that you need another free e-mail account, this one from Google: tomorrow's AOL, today.

Google, the search engine giant, started testing Gmail, its new e-mail server, on a trial basis—by invitation only—on April 1. Today, unless you're a company man or a friend of one, you can neither obtain a Gmail account nor be invited to open one. (Rumor has it Gmail will go public next year.) It's the old forbidden-fruit trick or a little something your economics teacher used to call supply and demand. Either way, it makes Gmail so attractive that Gmailswap.com—started by a Gmail fan—is choked with acolytes who want accounts.

Gmailswap.com is where those with a sense of humor go to barter for an invitation—the delicious irony of bartering for access to the Information Superhighway scarcely registering. Folks who prefer cash for their invites go to eBay, where Weekly intern Erica Shen just fetched about 80 bucks, a nice price—higher than most—considering the stories about Gmail going public in January.

The fuss over something that could be yours free in just a few months makes you wonder why Radiosucks was so anxious "to do something crazy" like eat a spoonful of cinnamon or why Happybday and his girlfriend were ready to scream out your name during sex—"Name yelling," they called it—in exchange for a Gmail account.

Part of the attraction is the Gmail account's promise: one gigabyte of space, no spam, no pop-ups, and a filing system that links related messages into a conversation, much like an online bulletin board, making them easier to find. There's also the fact that because this is a new server, "your name here@gmail.com," be it Hugh Jass or Fuzzy Lumpkins, is probably still available. No FuzzyLumpkins420 for you, my man.

And there's simple cachet attached to Google. It didn't become one of the Internet's most efficient search engines—a moneymaker and a hotly awaited IPO—by getting out there, kissing hands and shaking babies.

Google, started by two Stanford men, has always been the Internet's version of a Jay Gatsby, of whom it was said "there were whispers about him from those who had found little that it was necessary to whisper about in this world."

Adding an e-mail server could amplify this summer's whispers to a shout, reshaping the rather erudite search engine from library to lounge. That could be a shame, given that Google has always been something of an Internet crossroads that somehow made even the smarter set feel that much smarter.

Now, for the sake of an invite, charlotte_80 (case sensitive) is offering high-resolution pictures of her orange cat in a neon wet suit.

tdouglas@ocweekly.com

 
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