Is Gmail shutting down? Viral hoax claims Google is sunsetting its email service

Google's Gmail is estimated to have 1.8 billion active users (Google)
Google's Gmail is estimated to have 1.8 billion active users (Google)

The internet loves a good hoax. Open social media on any given day, and you may run into a fake image of the pope in a gigantic puffer jacket, TikToks of Big Ben on fire, and false sightings of sharks in flooded towns. Not to mention all the deranged conspiracy theories being floated online, from Taylor Swift’s links to the Pentagon to the endless speculation over Jeffrey Epstein’s death.

Now, a new hoax is doing the rounds. While not as bizarre as the above examples, it landed like a bombshell on X (formerly, Twitter). Yesterday night (22 February), some verified users on the platform claimed that Google was shutting down Gmail, the ubiquitous email service.

As proof, they showed screenshots of an official-looking email announcing its demise, and insisted this wasn’t a joke. As more people shared the same convincing image, you’d be forgiven for believing them.

Could Google really do such a thing? After all, we’re talking about a capricious company that’s axed dozens of products. It pulled the plug on its social media platform Google+, the ahead-of-its-time game streaming service Stadia, and numerous messaging apps. Sure enough, Killed by Google, an account that tracks the services Google has shuttered, even piled in, claiming “the rumours are true”.

Okay, let’s all take a moment to relax. Trust us, Gmail isn’t going anywhere, folks. How can we be sure? Because Google itself denied it. Yes, so potent was the hoax that the company was forced to respond. “Gmail is here to stay,” the tech giant said in a tweet that was viewed 11 million times. Moments later, it announced the death of Google Pay in the US, so it clearly hasn't lost its taste for blood.

There’s also the little fact that Gmail is among Google’s top guns, along with YouTube, Google Search, Google Maps, Chrome and its Workspace apps. Killing any of them off would be a monumental blunder.

So, what exactly is going on? As it turns out, Google actually did scrap a version of Gmail without much fanfare. In January, the company officially ended support for the service’s basic HTML view, after announcing that it was going away last year. As a result, its users caught up to the rest of us by automatically making the jump to the faster standard version.

Fast forward to February 22, and some jokers on X thought it would be funny to pretend that Gmail as a whole was getting deleted. Which is all fun and games until you realise you haven’t saved your inbox stuffed with 3,000-plus emails.