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May 29, 2008

Gmail Labs?

Google pre-announced a mysterious new feature for Gmail. "On Thursday, June 5th we're going to be launching a new Gmail feature that we like to think of as a next evolution of 20% time. It's a change in our development process and in the way users will be able to influence Gmail's design."

20% time is one of the many peculiar things about Google. "The 20 percent time is a well-known part of our philosophy here, enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in our job descriptions. You can use the time to develop something new, or if you see something that's broken, you can use the time to fix it."

Google's engineers may work on many side-projects related to Gmail and this could be an opportunity for users to try them, send feedback or influence which features should be further developed and added to Gmail. It's not clear if that's the right interpretation for Google's intentionally-ambiguous text, but we'll find out next Thursday.

It might even match one of my predictions for this year: "Gmail will launch a Google Labs-like site with experimental features that could be added by those who are curious to see the next features before they are officially launched." Instead of releasing entirely new applications on Google Labs, it's more practical for Google to create mini-labs for each important service and expose experimental features that could be added or removed, like in Google Experimental Search.

Update (June 5th): TechCrunch covers Google's announcements. "At 6 pm PDT Gmail will launch Gmail labs under a Gmail tab - all users will have access to it. The first batch will have 13 features." Here are the features:

* a module for quick links (saved searches, important messages)
* superstars (additional star icons)
* pictures in Gmail chat
* fixed width font
* custom keyboard shortcuts
* mouse gestures
* random signature
* signature tweaks (places the signature before the quoted text)
* custom date format
* muzzle (hide the status of your contacts in Gmail chat)
* play Snake inside Gmail
* email addict (blocks the screen for 15 minutes)
* hide unread count

You'll be able to find them in a new tab from the Settings section. Probably the most useful features are: quick links, superstars and custom shortcuts. More about Gmail Labs in a future post.

54 comments:

  1. So is this like the beta version of Gmail? Oh wait, Gmail *is* beta. The mind boggles...

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  2. It could also be an evolution of the 20% idea itself. Why only use the brains of the employees? Maybe users have some spare time to contribute and innovate?

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  3. So long as the twenty percenters aren't just obsessed with 'social networking', and spare some time to consider the issues that matter - like stopping spammers at source, then I'm all for it.

    One of the big problems with gmail is the sheer level of account abuse; Gmail must get a handle on that, not only for practical purposes, but because it's dragging down gmail's reputation.

    Good Luck - Stay Ahead!

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  4. @Philipp:
    Isn't that obvious? Google usually doesn't create poor logos.

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  5. Possibly the ability to change Gmail's layout or perhaps skins/themes similar to those of igoogle.

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  6. I can't believe people still talk about that "20% time" bs as if it applies to every Googlers.

    IT'S A MYTH. It only applies to less than probably 15-20% of Google
    employees. They first have to suggest ideas to their managers or
    like and those ideas have to get approved in order for them to
    get the "20%". Majority at G don't get that freedom.

    I really dislike Google making impression to people as if every
    Googler can get a free 20% every week just after they join Google.

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  7. "The 20 percent time is a well-known part of our philosophy here, enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren't necessarily in our job descriptions."

    "engineers" - in black and white (on my browser, anyway).

    I see nothing misleading there.

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  8. Offline Mail ?? :o)

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  9. What about Gears for Gmail? When is that going to happen?

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  10. I'll guess themes.

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  11. June 5th is my birthday. heh.

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  12. Please - ask them to add Folders

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  13. "They first have to suggest ideas to their managers or
    like and those ideas have to get approved in order for them to get the "20%". "

    Zeta, that's not the way it works. Engineers aren't required to get manager approval for what they want to work on with their 20% time.

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  14. let me guess...they are going to take the BETA off...

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  15. "in the way users will be able to influence Gmail's design"

    by that phrase, I'm guessing something different... since gmail has an official greasemonkey API, maybe they will launch a site were "users" (actually developers) will be able to feature their greasemonkey scripts and other users might be able to choose them and plug into gmail.. like a directory of gmail mods..
    maybe they could also plug some sort of social voting like digg or reddit for users to vote for the best scripts..

    just some sort of iGoogle, but for gmail, with a new, non-traditional twist...
    who knows if it isn't actually an iGoogle version with widgets focused for Gmail?

    any way that it comes out, I believe it's gonna be interesting =)

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  16. @Victor M.J.: They will not. You can create instant "folders" by using the search engine on the top of the page. If you want to see all the mail from e.g. John Doe, you type it in, enter, and the temporary folderlike compilation will instantly be listed. And you can compile according to any keywords, which is pretty useful. :)

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  17. Off topic:
    Has anyone else noticed that Google's favicon has changed?
    Using Opera 9.5 on Ubuntu Linux

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  18. @Izolda - Categorizing is not the same as organizing! When everything is in one place, things tend to fall thru the cracks.

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  19. i wouldn't be surprised if they released some kind of gmail API, the same way they did for google docs and spreadsheets...

    that would be neat actually, to let people mess with their own email client...

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  20. I cannot understand the adversity to folders. When people say they want folders, I believe what they really want is sub-folders. Labels with sub-labels is a super set to folders. Nobody seems to have a problem with labels, so what is the big problem with sub-labels/folders? It has already been done in docs. Many are used to organize this way and does not cause any harm to those how are adverse to sub-folders/labels.

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  21. It will mix with the new offline Docs via Gears and that too me is way cool :D

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  22. blue star web design, tipperary, irelandMay 31, 2008 at 4:45 AM

    labels are a much better solution than folders...a natural evolution. besides labels still offer the functionality of folders even if the concept is different

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  23. i got somthing about 20% time in my blog

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  24. The talk of changing the development model sounds a little like google wants to open the gmail source a degree.

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  25. Get the tags back! Alright, you can call them labels, but I do not want them as they are in GDocs.

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  26. It is June 5th, Still look for this.

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  27. Check after 1 pm PDT, when there's a launch barbecue at Googleplex. If you spot something new in Gmail, let us know.

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  28. nothing yet.. waiting

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  29. What should we see?
    Or where can we find the new version, if that is not on by default?

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  30. nothing... i think nothing more is going to happen.

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  31. It's even better than I had previously imagined.

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  32. Ok. It's June 5. Where's my new gmail?

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  33. Only gmail in english? O for all languages??

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  34. it's june 5th, and past 6 pacific. where's my labs?

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  35. It's 10:39 est and still nothing. Where is the new functionality going to pop up? Do we have to enable it? Where would that option be?

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  36. Another cruel joke? I have nothing yet either.

    @Sleight Capital - the option should be a new tab under your settings page when and if it comes.

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  37. I got it.

    gmail.com>settings>labs

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  38. Not in Settings for me? I want my google labs to play with!

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  39. Make sure you use Firefox 2+, IE6+ or Safari 3 and your Gmail interface is in English.

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  40. Umm, none of the stuff in it is new...its all been available for quite a while now!

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  41. Will this apply to Google Apps users also?

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  42. Yeah, great question. GMail Labs on Google apps too ?

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  43. I logged on yesterday and had the red option on my gmail. Today it's gone! What's up with that? Have I been demoted?

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  44. The "red option" was just a link to the list of new features. The labs section can be found in the Settings page or by clicking on the small green logo next to your email address.

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  45. Quick international tip :

    set your interface in English (US)
    set the labs features
    go back to your language
    enjoy !

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  46. Labs is great!!! Only how do you get labs on a computer that doesn't have it???

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  47. Hi...today I noticed that I no more have acess to the google labs in my gmail account. The google labs tab itself disappeared. Also gmail quit fetching emails from my hotmail account. Can somebody please help?
    Thanks

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