Email is as old as the internet, but it needed Google to make it fun? Come on! I can't believe this. There is no real Gmail rival, not even a Gmail clone!
The thing people like the most about gmail seems to be the ability to dynamically sort and search emails in an advanced way, but I do not think in an innovative way! Okay, and the ample storage. Google just applied things everyone would like to have, but no other provider was so far inclined enough to do as well. But why? That's no rocket science!
Ajax like behaviour is everywhere. E-mails in conversation mode: why does Thunderbird fail so badly at it, although Gmail didn't get it right in the first place? And we all hated it on groups.google.com (which it effectively killed). Is it because of patents? One motivated coder already stopped development on an open source alternative (fear of lawsuits), although I can't see the "Gmail patents" (only silly stuff like 'putting adverts on email' - didn't Yahoo do this with its footer line from day one on? Who does greenlight these patents?!).
Tell me if hotmail, gmx, or one of the other players in the email biz made a good interface for online email lately. So far I've only seen 1990s stuff out there. Szzzzz.