Monopolies are bad things (unless you are the monopolist, I presume), they will eventually tend to laziness and exploitation, but enough of the cod economics. But you need to have a few positive things happen first – you need to be good at what you do in order to get into a stage of dominance and it generally won’t happen by accident.
Google seems to be in that opening phase of a monopolistic enterprise. They weren’t the first search engine, not even if you narrow it to web-only searching (who remembers gopher?) after all inter alia Yahoo were around for a while and many will remember when Alta Vista (from the then Digital) was the search tool of choice.
Google was always a little bit special, even back when it was run off a Stanford university server. These days are just the dog’s dangly bits. Aside from the News, Scholar, Answers and Groups functions which are all good, the country-specific servers are great too – but GMail is the biz.
I’ve hosted my own domain(s) for years, enjoying IMAP online storage of email for almost as long. Yet increasingly I’m pointing my email to GMail purely for the power of its search. It’s got a clean interface, some neat predictive abilities for handling names, the fast search you expect, enough space to be genuinely useful.
Some day all email will be like this.
(And if you’re curious but haven’t an invite to the Beta program, drop me a line with a decent reason and I’ll invite you.)