Google is hoping that one of the biggest barriers faced by consumers to moving to its Gmail email service has now been smashed, following an announcement that it has worked out a way for users to import emails and contacts to the service.

Likening the experience to "getting out of a relationship", those with plenty of baggage can now migrate email and contacts from other email providers, including Yahoo!, Hotmail, and AOL in a move that is likely to massively shake up the free email industry.

Google has even made it possible to have your messages forwarded from your old account for 30 days, giving you time to take Gmail for a test drive while you make up your mind.

However don't get your hopes up that you'll be ditching that hotmail account tomorrow. Google has said that the new feature isn't likely to pop up in your settings straight away, and anyone on the Google Apps platform; ie schools and businesses won't be getting it at all.

"This new feature is available in all newly-created Gmail accounts, and it is slowly being rolled out to all existing accounts. It'll take longer than the few hours or days that most Gmail features take to get out to everyone. You'll know it's on for your account when you see the Accounts and Import tab (formerly just called Accounts) under Settings. Sorry, businesses and schools using Google Apps won't see these new migration options", Google said on its Gmail blog.