Gmail was created by Paul Buchheit as a 20% project. Perhaps you are wondering what the 20% project is, The 20% project is a way that google encourages its employees to devote 20% of their time to side projects, and that how Paul came up with the project.
By the time Google started working on the service officially, Microsoft's Hotmail had already taken the market by storm with over 30 million active users and Yahoo mail had gathered about 12 million active users.
After a long work on the project and testing the day was finally here, April 1, 2004 Gmail was launched. But officially people did not take it serious at first because it was Fools Day. So people thought it was a prank.
As time passed users realized it was real, and it became one of a number that offered free email services. It did not dominate the market until later in 2012, its innovation did not end there over the past years we have seen Gmail evolve with slightly different changes from logo design and services offered. It has offered robust email search alongside 1Gb of storage for free to users. Over the years it has become one of the best service provider.
As you read this today Gmail dominates consumer email with more than 1.5 billion global active users