Gmail may finally make its official entrance into Brown's e-mail system as a pilot program makes the next step toward a transition to the Google, Inc. mail server.
About 200 students have been asked to test Brown's Google Services program this summer. The pilot, which began June 30, is the first step in Computing and Information Services' proposed conversion of all Brown e-mail accounts to Gmail, said Donald Tom, director of IT support.
To ease the transition, students participating in the program can forward their e-mail from their current Brown accounts to their new, trial Gmail accounts.
Tom said CIS is hoping that it will get as much feedback from students as possible.
"This program has only been in effect for about two weeks, so we haven't had enough time to collect student responses, but we hope the program is well-received," Tom said.
Colleges nationwide — including the University of Notre Dame and Northwestern University — have outsourced their e-mail to Google for the past three years, Tom said, providing the impetus for Brown to hop on the bandwagon.
College students drawn to Google's applications and storage space are already reluctant to rely exclusively on their college e-mail accounts, Tom said.
"We've been looking at this for about a year now," Tom said. Google's storage space and applications make the switch both cost-effective and beneficial for Brown's e-mail users — not to mention the fact that buying more storage for Brown e-mail "might not be the best use of University dollars" during the recession, he said.
For some students, the conversion to Gmail would be a welcome change.
"I think the Gmail idea is great because my mailbox is always filling up, which is incredibly frustrating. It's impossible to send larger files with the current e-mail," said Francis Gonzales '11.
Sarah Bolling '11 said she understands Gonzales' frustration with the current system's small storage.
"The combination of all the listservs I'm on, personal e-mails, e-mails from professors, and the fact that I hate going through and deleting old e-mails means that my inbox gets filled up ridiculously quick," she said.
The pilot is currently funded internally by University resources. If the pilot program is successful and Brown officially adopts Gmail, the University will not incur costs other than those of managing the e-mail service, Tom said, explaining that Brown will not have to buy new servers since they are provided by Google.
Right now, it is unclear exactly when the transfer to Gmail would go into effect. Tom said CIS wants to figure out contract deals with Google before the shift becomes official.
"Clearly we will not do anything until we have a signed legal agreement. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it doesn't," he said.
Before any contract is settled, both CIS and Google would have to get more student feedback about privacy concerns and Google applications, Tom said.