Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Gmail Sheds 'Beta' Label: Finally buggy enough for full release

Following in the footsteps of software giant Microsoft, Google made sure to add just enough performance issues, annoyances, unnecessary features, and poor support to their product before its official release.

When I first started using Gmail several years ago, I loved it. It was a huge improvement over my old Juno, Yahoo, or Hotmail accounts at the time. It enabled me to manage my inbox in ways I couldn't before, adding Search, Labels, and the conversation view feature that grouped messages more clearly. The spam filter caught most of the junk coming in. Over time, Google has made many useful updates to the service, adding IMAP support and more.

However, email today isn't what it was then. As the amount of email being sent and received has grown, Gmail has failed to keep up. Instead of being a supplementary messaging system, email is ubiquitous. It is also multimedia enabled, or should be. Can you tell me why I can't even copy/paste a photo into an email with Gmail?

Increasingly, Gmail has fallen behind in offering better ways to organize the information in the inbox. As services like Xobni and Xoopit and CC Betty and Gist and yes, even Microsoft, have tried to help users organize the mountain of information streaming into the inbox, Gmail's "innovation" has been limited to gimmicks like skins and other bloatware. I mean, do I really need to play Snake in my inbox? (Yes, for those of you who may have missed it, there is an option in Gmail Labs that allows you to play the old cell phone time waster game Snake inside Gmail.)

At a time when email needs to once again be reinvented, when email should be rapidly evolving and is clearly insufficient in its current form, now is a mighty curious time to take off the Beta label.


Charles said...

Booo! Show me a better email interface. This whole post is just sour grapes with no substance.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any kind of credibility ?

Teddy Douglas said...

Anonymous - As far as credibility goes, just ask Technorati. They'll tell you this blog has just about nil authority. So what? Evaluate what I said for yourself.

Charles - Gmail has a very good interface. I'm not sure anyone has a better one, and I use Gmail a lot. Perhaps that is precisely why its shortcomings stick out.

I'm not saying Gmail is bad, I'm just saying that it has become a leader by never being satisfied and always improving. This move signals that the product is finally mature, and I think this is an odd time to make that pronouncement.

1. Several times a week or so Gmail needs to load in HTML mode because the normal mode messes up, despite my 30Mbps cable connection running everything else just fine.

2. Lack of native in-message multimedia (including photo) support.

3. Limited open API.

4. When a spam message gets placed into a non-spam conversation, there is no simple way to "report spam" without knocking off the whole conversation.

5. maybe a couple little things I don't have time to write right now

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. While I don't necessarily agree, this is the first time I've seen someone criticize Gmail. You do make good points about how their improving in areas that aren't that important instead of focusing on core email issues.

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i suppose gmail will be coming out of beta now