Although Gmail is a very popular online email service it still remains a smaller rival to both Hotmail and Yahoo! in terms of users. However, statistics published by ComScore indicate that Gmail is growing at a much faster pace than the aforementioned two, and if the current trend holds, Googleís offering could catch up with Hotmail by the end of 2009.

According to the report, Gmail registered 29.6 million unique monthly visitors in December 2008, representing a 43 percent increase from last yearís 20.8 million. Windows Live Hotmailís monthly unique visitors on the other hand were reduced to 43.5 million from 45.7 million in the same period. Google still has a long way to go to catch up to Yahoo, which also saw a decent growth rate of 11 percent year to year, but itís realistic to think that it could happen as soon as 2011 if you look at current growth rates.

Google was a late entrant to the web mail space compared to its rivals but has contributed a lot to the market since its debut, offering 1GB of storage at a time when 2-4MB was the norm and introducing simple yet innovative new features such as auto complete and a conversation style way of reading your inbox. On top of that you have the Labs feature offering you lots of experimental functionality and regular updates. Both Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail have reason to feel threatened right now as Gmail is poised to become the number one webmail provider.