Gmail Inbox – Invite can wait!

Google announced the launch of Gmail Inbox a few weeks back. People are queueing to get an invite! Ofcourse, the world is going ga-ga about the new generation of email!

Let us take a quick step back.

Remember the pre-internet era? Offices were filled with box files to store/retrieve information. The emphasis on having a structure/organization was very high. Information discovery was a skill and it was at a premium.


Image Source: here

When internet first started picking up pace, it reflected the same state. Some of the most successful sites were portals such as DMOZ. At some point, all hell broke loose! Google – the search engine came into picture. It abstracted all the organization from people’s head (and all the box files & DMOZ like sites went for a toss)

If each website is a node on the graph with links representing the edges, web is one hell of a mess!

Web Structure

Image Source: here

The above graph can be consumed with a simple search bar – a beautiful abstraction for the messy web.


History repeats itself! Every where! Even in technology.

Outlook represents a generation of using structure for information retrieval. Box files in offices vanished when things moved online. But the structure remained in the folders of Inbox.


Image Source: here

Gmail entered the scene. You could actually search your emails and find things that you want! People stopped focussing on managing rules and actually let search take over. Today’s emails looks like one hell of a junk box. (Try clicking on your all mails)

all mails

Image Source: here

Gmail’s search functionality abstracts all the complexities through a simple interface.

gmail Search

Image Source: here

People are inherently disorganized!

Just look at the number of todo lists apps! Given this is default human nature, Google’s model of abstracting away organization worked wonderfully well. But something is changing in the way information is consumed today!

We are moving from information pull era (when there was shortage of information and google was used to find out stuff) to information push era (where there is abundance of information and shortage of eye balls). The need of the hour is to filter important information which you care about from the large volumes of noise.

In this push era, the emphasis of organizing information is very important. An important email can fall between the cracks of all the information overflow. And we have been pampered with Google’s search capability. This only means that we don’t want to go back to the early days of building folders and classifying information manually. We need assistance in organizing information for task completion.

Here is where Google’s Inbox comes into play.

inbox logo

(1) It “bundles” emails: It helps you organize better.  It classifies information automatically and clusters them.Definitely better user experience than before. But hey! Inbox was supposedly a revolutionary new way of looking it at email. Seriously, this looks like a rebranded feature. Not really a game changer.

Here is a rule of thumb. To assess the importance of the feature, just ask one question. Would you pay for it? NO. Infact, people who have organized their emails will have much more granular filters than what Inbox provides. And the rest won’t care about organization and rely on search.

(2) It “Highlights” action items. (Google Now for Gmail): If you have a flights to catch or bills to be paid.. Google will remind you. For some this is really creepy. But this is like having a digital assistant to complete all the chores. And I WILL PAY to have an assistant do this.. This feature to me is a game changer because it enables you to access Google Now without having to own an android phone. That is a great strategy to dominate the virtual assistants market place. Well done Inbox!!

(3) Reminders & Snooze: Emails can be viewed as Task list or To do list.. Seriously, I think this is not going to make you more organized. In outlook, Emails can be marked as a task. Over a period of time, the list is going to pile up. You are either already doing something about your emails or you don’t care about this feature. More importantly, you cant use this for an inbox with huge volumes of emails. Inbox, Ding! Zero inbox philosophy for mail management is well known, but how many people actually follow it! So this is just a check mark feature and not a game changer.

(4) New UI: This is really good. Very neat UI! Well done Inbox. Material design is making things look better and obviously user experience is much better especially in a small screens. I am not going to pay for the UX change either. It is a necessary feature for a product, but just not sufficient to make me open my wallet.

With Inbox, Google is trying to help you organize your life around emails in an aesthetically pleasant and a better way! Google has made good strides. Credits to Google for doing this. Outlook has been aspiring (and only aspiring) to do this. But through Gmail Inbox, Google is not doing something really new or revolutionary in this roll out. Your emails will remain emails. The bad and boring emails are not too bad after all. And old email habits die hard. This product is not going to change your world. So just chill if you don’t get an invite for Inbox just yet!

It is easy to be an armchair critic. So in the next post, I will talk about a few features which can really take Gmail to the next level. Stay tuned till then.


Posted on November 11, 2014, in Product Review and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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