From The New Yorker:
When Google launched the beta version of Gmail, on April 1, 2004, it was a limited, invitation-only service. After I managed to acquire an invite and register my account, I hatched a plan. A few especially prescient acquaintances of mine had made some walking-around money by purchasing domain names for cheap, then reselling them for profit when consumer-branding developments or world events conspired to create demand for a particular dot-com address. I figured I could do something similar with Gmail account names. Everyone was looking to score an account back then, and all the most popular Gmail handles—stand-alone first names, fun words, pop-culture references—had been snatched up straightaway. So, I surmised, a secondary market for preferred Gmail account names was bound to develop at some point down the line. When it did, I’d cash in.
It turns out that firstname.lastname@example.org (let’s call it—him?—“eighteen” for short) had been admitted to a four-year college that features a mascot named Roary the Lion, helped fund a successful Presidential campaign, traded e-mails with a major television network, treated itself to fabulously over-the-top shopping sprees, and, just for good measure, volunteered to work at the PetSmart on 117th Street in East Harlem.
In total, not counting spam, eighteen had received four thousand three hundred and eighty-two e-mails since I registered the account in 2004. Early on, things were pretty slow. In its first year of existence, the account received exactly thirty e-mails—mostly from senders named Mailer-Daemon, System Administrator, and Mail Delivery Subsystem. By 2006, eighteen had graduated to receiving various offers to purchase software programs, pharmaceuticals, and DVDs, but the account was still pretty much a snoozer.
Continue reading the rest of the story on The New Yorker