What’s the Difference between Email and Gmail?

difference between email and gmail

Nowadays, email messaging usage is an important part of our time on Internet
But the technology evolves quickly, do you know the right vocabulary to use? The difference between “Email” and “Gmail”?
I’ll give you the detailed answer in this post, but let’s start with a quick answer

What’s the difference between email and Gmail?
An email, or electronic mail, is the name of a computer object, allowing people to exchange text messages. It’s a generic word
Gmail is the biggest email provider in the world, it’s a product created by a company: Google

After this short introduction, we can now look at these two words in detail, and compare them



An e-mail or email is a means or system for transmitting messages electronically (as between computers on a network)


An email is the name of an electronic document, created and sent by a person, then received and read by another
The document is transmitted through a computer network
Generally, this network is Internet


Emails exist since the early ages of Internet
Engineers invented it between 1965 and 1975
, while working on the ARPANET project
ARPANET was a network that became the foundation of the Internet we know today

How it works?

To use emails now, you have to open an account with an email provider
It could be your Internet provider, or another company, specialized in hosting emails accounts

When you create an account with an email provider, you can directly access a web interface to read and send emails (generally it’s a webmail)
You can also use a specific client software, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to receive and send your email with this software

To allow these clients usages, specific protocols had to be invented (POP, IMAP and SMTP), in order to communicate securely with the email provider

Today, we also often use our email accounts on our smartphones
Smartphones apps are using the same protocols as a classic computer (generally it’s IMAP)

Main providers

As I wrote previously, many people have an account with their Internet providers

Then, we find all the big names of the Internet, allowing you to keep your email address even if you move to another Internet provider:

  • Gmail (Google)
  • Yahoo! Mail
  • Outlook.com (Microsoft)

You can also find specialized providers, with various solutions
For example, ProtonMail offers an encrypted email solution, for more security




Gmail is a product name, so not yet in our dictionary 🙂
Gmail is an email provider, offered by Google
It allows you to manage your email from your web browser (webmail) or on any device with an Internet connection (PC, Mac, Smartphone)


Gmail was created in 2004
At the beginning, you needed to be invited to use it during the test period
Each user had a limited number of invitations he could send (50 if I remember well)

Originally, Gmail allowed us to store only 1 GB of data (emails, photos, attached files)
Since then, the storage space available has grown gradually, we can now have 15 GB disk space for free (paid options are available to get more)

How it works?

Gmail use the standard emailing protocols (POP, IMAP and SMTP), so Google didn’t innovate a lot to make this service work
Main innovations comes in the interface and additional features:

  • Advanced filters allow you to sort your emails easily
  • A powerful and effective search engine (Google is also the best search engine for Internet, so it must have been an easy feature to add)
  • Conversations: a smart way to group emails by subject
  • Automatic answering system
  • Auto saving each time you press a key, you can’t lose any data
  • Other Google Apps are also perfectly integrated with Gmail (Google Docs for example)
  • Included anti spam and antivirus features
  • etc.

And as often with Google, everything is available for free
Google have created “Google Apps” (now “G Suite”), a powerful solution for company
It allows companies to have a centralized solution for email and documents


Gmail is the most used email provider in the world
Google announced to have more than 1.5 billion users in October 2018

Its targets are individuals (@gmail.com emails) and professionals (they can use their domain name)
The G Suite solution provides a centralized solution for companies, to manage users like on any self-hosted server (Microsoft Exchange for example), while enjoying the power of Gmail for each user

Differences between Email and Gmail


The main difference is the one I gave in introduction: their definition

“Email” means a communication method, it’s a generic term, not belonging to a specific company or application
“Gmail” is a specific solution, developed by Google

It’s like comparing “Car” and “Tesla” if you want, we must not mix the general concept and the brand or application


As I wrote at the beginning, the email protocols are old.
They were invented before Internet (not really useful before Internet, but already ready)
Email is a technology created 40 years before Gmail

Gmail was released in 2004, not so far

How it works?

An email doesn’t really work, its an object. It needs an email provider and a software. An email is just one of the communication methods, like phone or mail

On the other hand, Gmail is a perfectly integrated solution, with everything to work directly. It’s an email provider and a software simultaneously
Several applications in facts, depending on your device


And that’s it, you now know the difference between email and Gmail

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