Is Gmail the Same as Email? 7-Point Quick Comparison


It was a clever marketing scheme; but, it drives a fair amount of confusion. Google’s decision to brand their email service as “Gmail” cemented a very close, mental association. This brought my parents to ask a very valid question: Is Gmail the same as email?

No. The brand-named product “Gmail” is not the same as the underlying technology “Email”. Electronic mail or e-mail refers to the industry-standard method for sending and receiving mail messages with file attachments. Gmail is a software system operated by Google for exchanging and managing e-mail.

Let’s clarify the differences using the following comparisons and easy analogy to remember the differences. We’ll also clue you in on several secrets that about Gmail that you deserve to know.

Quick Comparison

Here are the seven main differences between Email and Gmail

What is the main difference between email and Gmail?

Email describes how to send & receive digital messages through the Internet with many companies offering the service. Gmail is a service, owned & operated by Google, built on top of the email technology or protocol.

What is the meaning of email and Gmail?

Email is short for Electronic Mail. Gmail is the trademarked, brand name for Google Mail.

Is an email ID and Gmail ID the same?

An Email ID refers to a unique account on a particular or given email service Example: Email-ID@Some-Email-Service.com. A Gmail ID is the specific account on the Gmail service Example: Your-Gmail-ID@gmail.com.

Can I use email instead of Gmail?

Yes. Email can be used with any company offering electronic mail service. Gmail can only be used via Google’s services.

Is email or Gmail going away?

Email is not going away despite newer technology innovations. Gmail is also not going away as it’s one of the most popular electronic mail systems.

What is the difference between Email and Gmail app?

There are many choices of Email apps with different customizations each requires you to add the connection & account information. The Gmail app has only a few settings to customize and requires you to input your Gmail account. The connection information defaults to the Gmail service.

Is email or Gmail private?

Email was not designed for privacy though many email providers add privacy protections for messages in transit and while stored. Gmail is not private. Messages stored on the service fall under Google’s privacy policy. Contents are protected in transit.

Easy Analogy

An analogy might make it easier to understand and remember. Let’s make a comparison with fast food.

Email is a general process for sending messages on the Internet like fast food is a general process for serving a quick meal.

Vector graphic of generic fast food process including two worker figures and six various customer figures

With this in mind, using Gmail for managing emails is like going to McDonalds for fast food. They’re both one of the most popular and recognizable brands in their industries.

Ronald mcdonald statue in bangkok, thailand mcdonalds restaurant with praying hands in somewhat creepy expression

Warning: Eating McDonald’s fast food can be as equally scary as using Gmail for email.

Your Privacy – TANSTAAFL

There ain’t no such thing as free lunch.

unattributed fable, June 1938, via Quote Investigator

This is a long-held economic adage meaning that you’re always giving up something you value a little less to receive something that you value a little more.

In the case of using Gmail, you give up some of your privacy and attention to receive a free-to-use account. Google provides you an email address, processing, storage, backups, and access to your messages. You consent that Google may scan your email to implement features like Events from Gmail or Smart Reply. You also let the company show you advertisements that by default are based on your general Google profile.

So aren’t we okay to continue using Gmail if you simply turn off the Ad personalization setting or opt-out of the other features? Maybe.

You should continue to use (or not) Gmail based on how much you trust Google with data.

Over the years of using Gmail, many stories including questionable data access and email scanning for ad targeting have ruined my faith with the service.

Remember that your data, communication, and privacy is your right and your responsibility.

I understand that many choose to trade privacy for a free-of-charge email service. For me, I prefer to pay a privacy-centric, email service to host and help protect my sensitive information like email, contacts, and calendar entries.

Don’t get me wrong. I was a hardcore Google fan early on…

Never Locked In

I waited, for what seemed like, forever to get an invitation to sign up for Gmail when it first released to the public in 2004. At the time, I owned a few domain names and email addresses. As a programmer and nerd, I decided to simply pull my emails into my Gmail account and use it as a way to store, access, and organize messages.

I was suspicious of Google’s ever-evolving privacy policy and terms of use, but with the release of Confidential Mode, I dug into the details of that function and all of Gmail’s privacy. The content contained in personal Gmail accounts can be used at the discretion of Google‘s business needs. Fortunately, I never used my @gmail.com address which made moving easier.

I tell you with first-hand experience: you’re never locked into Gmail or any email system. It’s relatively easy to move to a privacy-respecting email provider.

Here are the steps I used to move away from Gmail:

  1. Commit to a date and write it on your calendar; maybe a Saturday or Sunday. If it’s your Google Calendar and while you’re there, make your calendar is private
  2. Download all your emails using Google Takeout by scrolling to the Mail item and clicking the MBOX option.
    Is gmail the same as email? 7-point quick comparison
  3. Save this MBOX file to a backup drive. The open-source email app Thunderbird can open this file if you need to search old emails.
  4. Select a new email provider. PrivacyTools.io has a great list. I chose Mailfence for the EU location, feature availability, and privacy practices.
  5. Go through your password manager (you’re using one right?) and visit each site updating the email address. Be sure to save updates in your password manager.
  6. It’s a gut-check, but it’s time to delete everything from Gmail. 
    a. Go through your All Mail, Sent, and Inbox folders clicking the All checkbox then the Delete button.
    Is gmail the same as email? 7-point quick comparison
    b. Go into your Trash folder and click the “Empty Trash now” button 
    Is gmail the same as email? 7-point quick comparison
  7. Leave your Gmail active. Simply stop using it. You want to maintain access to this inbox to catch any accounts you may have missed or when a Gmail account is needed.

Final Thoughts

We’ve gone over a lot. Here are your walk-away points:

  • Remember that Gmail is the brand name of a particular mail service, while Email is a general process and industry standard for sending and receiving messages. This is like how McDonald’s is a brand and experience of fast food, while Fast Food is the process for getting a quick meal.
  • Remember when deciding to stay or leave Gmail or any free-of-charge email service, please prioritize your data’s security and privacy. Your email correspondence is yours and should not be treated as an input for training AI, easily scanned by third-party companies, or ever used as a way to target you with advertisements.

Mike Chu

Mike is a web developer and content writer living as a digital nomad. With more than 20 years of devops experience, he brings his "programmer with people skills" approach to help explain technology to the average user. Check out his full author bio by clicking here.

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