Gmail: To dot or not?

Uncreative, random headings aside, this phenomenon is pretty neat. Discovered it a while ago, and while I had meant to write about it earlier (no, I really mean that… okay, maybe not. must you always be this picky?) I never actually got around doing so. Yeah, tell me something new.

So, anyways, this goes back to the early days of the perpetually in beta gmail. Yeah, these were the painful days of 2 mb mailboxes, garish, huge and annoying banner ads promoting nonsensical wares and unending spam featuring penis enlargement kits and what have you not. Gmail, with it’s promise of a 1 gb limit (gasp! how much is that!?!?), text ads (yeah, who cares if my email is scanned and read. I’m Indian. We live in large, gossip hungry families. Privacy? what on earth does that mean?) and enhanced spam blocking (well, spam was the only email I ever got. So it would be dearly missed. But we digress…) was sure to revolutionize web email.

But like all things good, there was a catch – you had to get invited. #%@^#@? yeah, that was my exact same reaction (if you’re female, give me a call. we might share a wavelength). So after weeks and weeks of searching, worshiping and displaying admirable levels of sycophantic behaviour (featuring unpublishable stuff) and other things such towards people who had gmail invites, I finally landed an invitation to my very own shiny, new gmail account.

As an early adopter, I had virtually no problem choosing an email address of choice (unlike yahoo where my best shot for kaushikmohan@yahoo.com is kaushikmohan_meister_73284738@yahoo.com and msn where it is a shite side worse!). (drum roll) kaushikmohan@gmail.com (flourish) was hence the new email address.

And then like all things new and exclusive, eventually everybody and her dog got a gmail address (by which time it was public knowledge the “.” was an accepted character in an email address, finally supplanting the inelegant but effective underscore). The standard email address, hence became firstname.lastname@gmail.com . Damn, I was the pariah. again.

But this is the cool thing. the dot does not matter. You see, because the firstname, lastname with a dot in the middle paradigm became the subconscious choice for anybody’s email address, people started emailing me at kaushik.mohan@gmail.com (yes, by this time legitimate email had miraculously started arriving in my inbox). And (even more miraculous) these (email featuring the incorrect dot version of my email address) would come straight into my inbox.

So the experimenter in me woke up, and I tried doing some random stuff.The discovery was quite cool. according to gmail, k.aushikmohan, ka….ushikmohan and kaushikmohan are all the same. In effect, gmail treats the dot as a mere visual separator. To the piece of code that actually parses the address, the dot is replaced by a null character. The dot is therefore, irrelevant. How incredibly profound 🙂

Sashman also did his own set of (more adventurous, multiple dot) experiments and came to the same conclusion.

Interesting ain’t it? My guess is that email addresses are parsed through some sort of LIFO system (I always try and sound remotely intelligent atleast once in every blog posting), that nullify’s all the dots that precede the ‘@’ symbol. Who knows, perhaps there are other characters that are handled in a similar fashion.

It’s quirky, even geeky perhaps. But I still think it’s pretty cool.

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3 Responses to “Gmail: To dot or not?”

  1. Shashi Rajasekaran Says:

    ……….

    just to prove..google is not just another .com company..

    interesting find dude.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    thanks for this very interesting piece of information.

    I am sure it would add a lot of value to daily living 🙂

  3. Koach Says:

    @anonymous:
    (Sarcasm)
    I am sure it would add a lot of value to daily living
    (/Sarcasm)

    :). Anything to be remotely useful to society.

    @Sash: yeah. Really random, but interesting nonetheless.–>

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