Alex Massie

Department of Niche

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Alan Jacobs at the always-splendid American Scene:

Here’s my Little Surprise of the Day: I was reading this blog post about the proposed Microsoft purchase of Yahoo, and saw in the chart at the bottom of the post that Yahoo Mail has over fifty percent of the American email market while Gmail has less than six percent. Less than six percent? Are you kidding? Three-quarters of the people I correspond with (or so it feels) use Gmail. How did my experience get so skewed from the norm? Are we Gmail users a bunch of weirdos? And, if so, just what kind of weirdos? (And, whole we’re at it, how could anyone prefer the hideously ad-strewn UI of Yahoo Mail?)

Count me both not-surprised and surprised. Almost everyone I email has gmail as their non-work address. But then of course I also use a Mac. Of course, Yahoo has been around for years, while gmail was until pretty recently a sort of secret. You had to be invited to join etc etc. But still...

Jacobs is right to remind one that almost nothing these days is as popular as we think of it. Even Presidential elections struggle to stir the minds of much more than 55% of the electorate. What we think of as mass movements command the support of perhaps 25-33% of the nation. In sport too, the newspapers might give you the impression that everyone is watching the Superbowl or transfixed by the identity of the next England manager. Not so. Most of the most popular mass entertainments are themselves still minority pursuits. Even the biggest platoons are actually still quite small.

An obvious point perhaps, but one that's easily forgotten. Best to bear it in mind next time one's tempted to extrapolate wildly from, say, one's own personal experience. Even punditry has cause for moments of humility. From time to time of course. Wouldn't want to make a habit of that sort of thing.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSociety