It all started with ves. from friendfeed trying to clean her gmail inbox. I advised her to use filters and filtering @the feed she mentioned gmail cleanout. While brainstorming at this feed, she questioned “Whether we can sort mails according to their sizes or not?”  and we started to google it. By default, Gmail doesn’t support sorting mails according to their sizes. One way to do this was connecting to your account using an e-mail client such as thunderbird or outlook with IMAP, but this will definitely be a little bit harder and a longer way to go, there should be an easier way to do it. (For the curious ones, the solution using IMAP is explained here )

At this point, FindBigMail came to our aid. “F*ck, I’ve had thought of something like this before” is what you say when you discover FindBigMail. It extracts and labels e-mails bigger than 1MB, so that you can erase the redundant ones..

They say that, “Security is important to us. We only see the size of your emails, not their contents, and we never see your password. “. But how do they achieve this? Let me briefly explain this: (What I am going to discuss will be vastly covered in the FAQ page  of the service, I’ll just summarize the main functionality.)

When you enter your gmail or Google Apps account, you are directed to the “grant access” page of Google asking you to allow or deny access of your account by this service. When you grant access, FindBigMail.com uses OAuth technology and gets a temporary token to access your account. You can revoke the token anytime you like. It is automatically revoked after FindBigMail finishes your scan. You can check from this site: https://www.google.com/accounts/IssuedAuthSubTokens.
If we talk about the technical details slightly, main points  are these:

  • When you start using FindBigMail service, they send an initial “we’re starting, here’s where to get status” email. Scan of your gmail account starts and you can track the status of the process from that link.

  • In the background, they take hash of your e-mail address, smt like 704967b578d57ec56874ea0cf4f98x303585968, an md5sum with 33 characters unique string. They can’t ever get your email address back from this, but for cases like someone starts doing lots of runs with the same email address, or you have a problem and they need to take a look at your logs, they use this information to detect valuable information.

  • While scanning, FindBigMail.com detects big mails and filters them by adding those labels:
    • “FindBigMail > 10mb”: Larger than 10,000,000 bytes
    • “FindBigMail > 5mb”: Between 5,000,000 bytes and 10,000,000 bytes
    • “FindBigMail > 1mb”: Between 1,000,000 bytes and 5,000,000 bytes.

After it scans more than 75%, donation buttons start to appear :)

  • After the scan is completed, another e-mail is sent to you, Find Big Mail – Scan Results. You receive graphical information like those pie charts above. In addition to these, you get the 3 Biggest Messages’ links and your top 20 list. You also receive the numerical analysis, how many mails are labeled as FindBigMail >10mb, FindBigMail >5mb and FindBigMail >1mb. Another feature is the “FindBigMail – Top” label that sorts the labeled e-mails from the biggest to the smaller ones; which was what ves. asked about, Q.E.D. After you are finished with the labels, you can remove them if you want. The details are @Gmail help page..

These were my results..

  • After the scanning is finished, they say that they ‘forget’ your email address. “..An easy thing to do, because we never stored it anywhere, except in memory while we ran your scan.

And that’s all. There are extreme cases in FAQ such as “scanning only inbox when you are using the Google labs feature that lets you hide Labels from your IMAP client and you have configured your IMAP settings to hide the All Mail folder. “ but honestly, I don’t think you’re going to need such extreme information frequently.. Just keep in mind looking at the FAQ, if you think you encountered a discrete case.

I’ve used and liked FindBigMail.com, I hope you like it too. Please comment if I missed smt about this service. Also, to keep this service free and alive, do not forget to donate some money to the project ;)