Apparently, being a GMail beta tester this early in the game is a bigger deal than I realized. Jason Shellen was bombarded with requests from people who wanted accounts, complete strangers on Orkut are begging me for an account (which I have absolutely no authority to give), and the number of users so far is said to number in only the thousands.
I, for one, have never really understood the appeal of free web-based email. I mean, I have to pay for my ISP anyway. They don't have free ISPs yet that I know of, I can read my regular email through my ISPs web-based interface, so what do I need free email for?
I'm glad to be a beta tester though, because it's really neat sending test emails and seeing whether GMail can come up with appropriate contextual ads or links. Also trying to figure out if their different conceptual approach to managing email (labels vs. folders, archive but don't delete, powerful search) is useful.
And surprisingly, Orkut is really coming in handy for breaking news. I found out today that select Bloggers were offered a GMail account when they logged in to Blogger today. And these are not just high profile Bloggers (some of whom Jason Shellen had already offered accounts). But it's not across the board, either. Maybe the Blogger team just had some fun offering accounts to people who's blogs they liked (almost assuredly a grammatical error in my punctuation there). I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere on the web yet. My guess is GMail is really ramping up so they can unleash to a wider audience ASAP.
 I found out the next day that Evan Williams blogged the Blogger Gmail offer, but not until 6:59 pm.