Um, received this rather surreal press release yesterday. Not sure I would have sent this out as a piece of public relations, myself. It’s likely that Google will respond, either with a polite phonecall or a legal letter. Or in all likelihood, they just won’t care. Be interesting to see how it plays out.

After chatting to a Googler here, they pointed out that the same thing is also happening in Germany. Check out: www.gmail.de

It starts:

If you thought the South African internet domain Gmail.co.za was owned by Google, then think again. Owning what could be considered the internet giant’s most valued asset – it’s name, two of South Africa’s homegrown IT companies have beat Google to it by offering SA internet users a locally-focused free email offering.

Webmail International, South Africa’s leading free email service and IT solutions company Gardale Solutions, have combined forces to form a local free email solution on the www.gmail.co.za domain.

Gardale have owned the domain since July 2003, before Google launched its Gmail offering to Google users. Abbreviated from Gardale Mail, the .co.za website has been running its Internet Service Provider (ISP) division for the past five years.

2009 will see the company teaming up with established and well-loved ISP Webmail International which has been running its own local email service for 10 years and that successfully launched the newest version of its website in 2008. The provision of a local free email solution by Gardale Mail was decided on due to numerous requests from users.

This new combined product called Gmail will be launching in Feb 09 and will offer features that compare to the best international offerings of the same:

* 10Gb of storage
* Free VOIP calls between users
* CHAT
* Webtunes and Webradio
* Free fax to email services
* Free SMSes, Video and Voicemail services coupled with social networking and file sharing abilities

and it goes on.

10 Responses to “"SA companies beat internet giant to the pinch"”
  1. Webmail International should be investigated for bad business practice, lying to clients and customers and breach of contract. After being approached by Webmail and being assured that there was no spamming, fantastic response rates (30%-40%) and examples of the other companies who had great results. I signed up. Since then, they don’t return calls, they are amateur in the extreme, they threaten legal action at every turn and refuse to engage at all. I have since found out that the database that ‘signed’ up to receive direct mail is their own email database. In order to get a free Webmail email address they require huge amounts of personal information. They use this info to spam their own clientele and then charge me for the pleasure!!! The privacy they promise their email clients is a farce. Every time somebody clicks through I get their phone number and their email address. I’m sure they love that! 96% of my direct mailers were deleted without opening! So much for a target market. The response rate has been 0.01% – if I had given away free product to these 69 people I would have saved thousands of Rands. I paid R30k to spam consumers and I am so furious. Webmail must be stopped!!

    If you have been scammed by this company please contact me on WebmailSucksBig@gmail.com and let’s stop them once an for all!!!

  2. sigh,

    this is really lame. Not to mention that its running on the webmail backend which is KAK (from what i remember tons of spam and banner ads everywhere)

    I know they owned the domain since before gmail, but if the .de site is anything to go by, at least they have a cool design.

  3. That Gmail.co.za is so FAIL! they woulda done better to deploy google apps on the domain. Why must South Africas copy and fail… innovate you chops.

  4. Do they mean beat to the punch? Or is there some word play going on in reference to the economic downturn that I am not getting?

  5. I’m just wondering if the headline of this is a deliberate irony or a typo…
    Projected outcome: huge copyright battle. Google wins and the birth of Garmail follows out of all the brouhaha.

  6. Regardless of how long the domain is owned by Gardale, this is brand piracy. Google has done all the hard work (not to mention the money employed in development) of turning the term “GMAIL” into a phenomenal brand and now they just wanna stroll in and ride the wave.

    Not sexy.

  7. I just love the “due to numerous requests from users” line. Yeah right, like an accidental visit to a domain squat constitutes a request to provide the service of the company you’re squatting! Beautiful.

  8. Lol, I think this is quite funny. How can you even consider building a business around this? Madness…

  9. Brilliant opportunism from both companies (Webmail & Gardale) – I reckon we’ll see I nice sell-off of the domain to Google in the near future.

    If not so, expect to see the legal guys starting to get involved.

    Nonetheless, there’s no way I’ll migrate from Gmail.com to a webmail service.

  10. I don’t see the point in trying to compete with Gmail.com. Google’s mail offers 100x more than the local competitor will ever be able to!

    Its like a David and Goliath but this time David has no stones.

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