Google announced its latest re-invention of the wheel just a few days ago with ‘Inbox’, a new app and browser based email service that takes a new and arguably more modern approach to email. If we were to come up with an elevator description of Inbox (i.e. we’re in an elevator, tell me what Inbox is in 20 seconds…), I would probably say that it basically makes your email easier to manage, more relevant to your life with better management and content transparency options. We all aboard? Making sense yet? Actually I think that Inbox might jut be the answer for me. Here’s why…
Firstly let me state for the record that I remain one (of probably tens of thousands) of us that has yet to get hands on with Google Inbox. Google Inbox is of course invite only at this stage in its roll out. I sent my request for an invite to Google last week and was subsequently told to hold my horses. The message read ‘Thanks for requesting an invite. We’ll send you one as soon as possible. Your friends at Gmail’. The thoughts and opinions presented here are largely aspirational, but also developed having read several quality articles out there on the Interweb.
Gmail… Email Google Style
Gmail first rolled out (also as an invite only service I recall ) back in April 2004, a fact that seems hard to reconcile with my own personal recollections. Eleven years ago? Seriously? Then again I cannot imagine living without my Gmail / Google account now, not least because it is a major part of my Google soul. Back in 2004, Microsoft had started restricting the size of its free email service Hotmail, and in general you could argue that at that time the future of free web-based email services looked pretty bleak. Gmail changed all that in a single wave of its omnipotent hand, giving you a whopping 1GB of free space just for signing up.
Since then we have seen the arrival and evolution of the Gmail service app on smartphones as well as several tweaks and changes to the way Gmail itself worked. We have seen the addition of Google Labs which opens a Pandora’s Box of experimental features, we have the arrival of the tabbed Inbox, improved spam filters, Gmail chat and better social network integration. However the one thing that, for me at least, made Gmail an increasingly indispensable tool for work, was the sheer capacity of the Inbox and the idea that you never had to delete an email ever again.
During my seven years or so working for technology companies in Taiwan, I used my Gmail account to be the one main account, connecting all other corporate accounts. This meant that whether I was on the road on a business trip, or in a meeting, or sitting at my desk, I was only a login way from my all important emails. The Android Gmail app kind of made all that easier. And although from time to time I would still use email clients like Outlook (shudder…) I would always have a copy of my mail sent to my Gmail account for archiving. The other great thing about doing things in this way is that even after leaving a company and having them delete your email address the day you walk out the door, all my email history is still backed up in the cloud. The down side of all of this is that I have ended up with a mailbox with more than 24,000 unopened emails.
Yes, to many this is anathema. 24,000 unopened emails? Well actually 24,583. But this is kind of my point. Having all that space is that you can just ignore most of the rubbish and ‘Never delete an email again’. That has been my approach for years now and I am now in a place where I need new and improved way to interact with my Inbox. The new ‘Inbox’ app would seem to be exactly the kind of thing that I need.
Google ‘Inbox’ Can Save Me from Email Hell?
The first thing that strikes me about ‘Inbox’ is that once again Google is trying to use intelligent algorithms to better present you with the right stuff, just as it did with search. Inbox can present you with something that is much more useful in life. Something closer to a To Do List. Important dates, times subjects and anything which is remotely useful to your life will be presented in a way which actually more similar to a social media stream. Better organized and more visual.
This means that the details are well and truly apparent. The time of the flight is clearly displayed. The .PDF is not hidden but actually presented just under the title of the email. Same goes with pictures or other media. Google calls this ‘Highlights’, where key information is available at a glance – you don’t even have to open them.
As well as a cool feature that allows you to snooze at any time of day – hooray! say goodbye to unwanted beeps, flashes and vibrations – there’s also the ability to create bundles as opposed to just tags so that certain conversations and email threads are intelligently linked together. This is Google doing what it does best. Working out intelligent ways to collate, interpret and display information. The idea of the letter, and thus e-‘mail’ has meant that in the digital age, we are struggling to read our ‘mail’ each day. Google’s Inbox should make for a much better experience where the right information is presented in a much more rational and intelligent way. Good news for a guy with so much going on in there that I largely ignore 80% of the ‘Mail’ I receive.