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February 20, 2008

Gmail 2.0 and User Happiness

When Gmail released an update to its code base in October 2007, many people complained that it loads very slow and it's buggy. Since the new version was initially released only for the US interface, I suggested to go back to the older version by changing the language to British English. This will no longer work since Gmail will soon be released internationally. Meanwhile, I noticed that Gmail 2.0 loads much faster and it's almost as reliable as the previous version.

Some people are still having problems with Gmail 2.0. Geemo complains at Gmail's discussion group: "it usually takes several attempts to even get my mailbox to load and when it does load the mail links sometimes are unclickable. This is supposed to be an improvement!? Also, I always have to switch to Older Version EVERY TIME I need to send an email in order to get the address book auto-fill to work (It comes up in New Version but none of the address suggestion can actually be selected). (...) Is there a way to set my account to only work in the "older" setting? Or should I just move back to Yahoo? "

I enjoyed the reply to this post:
I share your feelings, and wish I could offer you more than just plain sympathy. Till February 13, we could suggest to users (and personally, I did) how to remain with the "old interface", forgoing only the pleasure of coloured labels and the pain of twenty acknowledged but unresolved issues, besides many more unacknowledged, random, quirky, and unresolved ones ... cf. these Groups.

However, from February 13 as he says, the happy Robby Stein, Associate Product Marketing Manager, has put paid to our escapist timidity in not venturing boldly out to embrace the "new interface" by rolling it out to everyone ... except to the Croatian, Icelandic, Hebrew, and Arabic speaking people, the only ones who -- in my opinion -- are truly blessed for now for not being rolled under or over by this "new interface".

I should not comment on whether you should move back to Yahoo! But with indications that either Microsoft or AOL or any other equally diabolical entity picking up Yahoo!, I would feel that learning Croatian, Icelandic, Hebrew, or Arabic may prove to be a smarter thing to do.

The migration to Gmail 2.0 is inevitable, assuming you use a supported browser, but it's not clear if this upgrade is perceived as an improvement. Unlike desktop applications, web apps can suddenly update to a new version you don't like and you can't remove.


  1. I haven't had the same issues that people are talking about with the new interface. The only thing that has completely annoyed me about the new interface is that Better Gmail 2.0 doesn't have the signature float capability or the ability to put hyperlinks in signatures. These are two things that should have been put into Gmail 2.0 by default and I can't understand how they were left off. Maybe in 3.0.

  2. I've really enjoyed some of the new features in GMail -- but, the best thing for me is the speed improvements. The increased memory usage is bad (since I'm in a Firefox variant, bad enough already) -- but the speed of opening emails makes up for my keyboard losing some responsiveness ;)

  3. I hate it that even though I use an unsupported browser for the new version (Safari 3), it always loads the new interface anyways. So I have to close safari and open it multiple times until the "Older Version" button works.

  4. I was annoyed after the initial switch and having to deal with delayed loading and the stupid error message about going back to the HTML version, but am now very happy. I have only seen that error message one time over the last few weeks.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. My one problem with the new interface is that more often than not archive chats do not load when you click on them! WTF?

    Using Firefox2 on Leopard.

  7. Since the change I can no longer access my account through my Nokia WAP cell phone. I sent an enquiry to the gmail team months ago and have yet to hear a reply.

    1. They fixed most of the bugs. I consider the current version GMail 2.1. It is now FASTER for me than the old version under Fx 2 and IE7. Under Fx 3 beta 3 it is BLAZING.
    2. The new contacts manager is ALMOST good. Loads better than the old one.
    3. Bookmarking, Back/forward support, Colored labels and Group chat. didn't know I even wanted it, don't want to go back.
    4. IMAP, because duh.
    5. Basic HTML still works and gets love occasionally. People with screen readers and odd browsers (Dillo, Netfront, Lynx) NEED THIS.

    1. Safari and Opera users are still left out. Boo-urns, I say!
    2. I still get occasional errors UNLESS I explicitly go to (also works for vanilla HTTP).
    3. Filters are still weak.
    4. Contacts manager is ALMOST good. Still needs improvement.

  9. Address Book Import from a Thunderbird csv file is also broken in the new interface, it complains it cannot import most entries. The old interface works perfectly.

    Thanks for allowing us to comment here, and not being sent over to some Google group :)

  10. Whell, there is another thing to do.

    Google Apps use the older version. You can sign up to Google Apps and ask it to feech mails from GMail.

    I do the reverse (my google apps to gmail) and it work.

    Heh, dont bother to thank me.
    /me run around with victory write over his body

    In fact this is my first comment and I am reading this blog for 3 months now. Hope you fild it usefull.


  11. Sadly Safari is not properly supported. I've been using the old version because of this. I find it strange that a browser based on an open-source engine (WebKit) is not 100% supported. Also, WebKit is used in the iPhone so Google should have an additional motivation.

  12. > it usually takes several attempts
    > to even get my mailbox to load and
    > when it does load the mail links
    > sometimes are unclickable.

    Can confirm this bug on my end too, it's a hurdle when you can see the mail subject but clicking on it will not result in anything for many seconds during application launch.

    The basic-HTML version of Gmail does not have these hiccups, by the way... makes you wonder how much of the DHTML-ajax-iframe glitz is really needed. What I'm missing from the basic version is just the address auto-completion -- it would be neat to have the option of a more balanced Gmail version rather than just deciding between "basic HTML with *no* JS at all" and "full steam version with *all* JS".

  13. I had experience some minor hiccups with the new Gmail but refreshing the browser solves that problem. The greatest problem I am facing is with the new address book: I seem to have a hidden entry for some of my contacts; I noticed that coz the address book shows I added two contacts to a group while I was just selecting one and only one contact.

    Also, for some contacts, when I do a quick search in the Chat box, it shows up two identical entries which when I clicked to chat, one of them accepts my chats and the other opens up a new window and shows the reply. I tried to search that same contact in address book (to remove the duplicate entry) but there is only one entry showing up.

    I still cannot solve that problem and it's very annoying.

  14. i use gmail on a daily bases, both 2.0 and the old gmail as domain user. i have no problems at all with either. so i'm a bit suprised to hear there are problems at all. it's probably because i always use the latest version of firefox.

  15. I have the same problem as Justin with Contacts: there's often a hidden selected one. I also at one point needed to delete all contacts (a couple of thousand) before reimporting them; this turned out not to be possible with Gmail 2.0, which is weird, unless you want to go through deleting twenty at a time.

  16. Gmail works as good for me as it always has. No complaints at all. Maybe people with problems are people who want to use some back door, third world browser. If that's the case, you have to know you'll have problems with many web applications and it's more your fault then it is Google's.

  17. Derek,

    I'm having problems and using the latest version of Safari 3.0. I'm always surprised with this "condescending" attitude towards Google. If it was Microsoft not supporting a specific browser (has it has happened with Firefox), the world would collapse. Its a pity that "standards" aren't kept both for Microsoft and Google.

  18. For the folks who complain of weird behavior: how many greasemonkey scripts do you have running against gmail? If you experience strangeness on sites that work well for *millions* of people, I'd suspect your own environment first. Try it in a browser with no extensions loaded.

  19. I'm still having problems with 2.0 and getting contact info from the chat field on the left side, just above the labels. In the old interface (and still now, with British English) I type in a name, and then moved my cursor over to the new window that opens up,
    hover over “Contact Profile" and then a new window pops up with a link to their Contact Details (such as their phone numbers). Now, I don't have that option, and
    I have to click on the Contacts link, which is much slower. Is there any way to bring this
    feature back? It made viewing info much quicker for me.

  20. On the positive side, unless I decide to take the Croatian/Icelandic/Hebrew angle (highly unlikely), at least now with the change I won't have to delete my emails to the Bin any more.

  21. I still use basic HTML version mostly because it works better in Konqueror.

    Also I like to open mail in new tabs, it do not work with full Gmail version, do not work in Gmail 2.0 too :(

  22. Just use an unsupported browser, or if you're on firefox, see if there's a user agent spoofing extension that will make Google think you're the Opera web browser. Then you'll get Gmail 1.0

  23. I haven't had a single one of the problems that others are complaining about with the new Gmail. Perhaps you're all doing something wrong - like running Windows.

  24. i usually have to REALOAD several times before i can log on to gmail.... and it takes ages for my mails to load... !!! this happens despite using different computers...... gettign really irritated ..slowing down my efficiency ...

  25. The new version of GMail sucks. I was enjoying GMail for sometime but with the newer version it started to give me all sorts of trouble. I get surprises everyday. One day you have to try several times to get into it, another day attachments are not working, another day it fails to load in Internet Explorer giving a JavaScript error and today I was trying to download PowerPoint Presentation and the download link is not there only the “View as HTML” was there. Why Google did release such a crappy version of GMail? I am considering moving away from GMail. GTalk also sucks. It fails to identify the desktop messenger and the web messenger. Messages come only to one place you couldn’t predict where. If you login from several machines using the desktop messenger all stay online messages go everywhere. What a crap.

  26. The new gmail truly a pain in the neck. I've been using gmail for a long time and never had problem with it.

    I don't know what the problem now I can only view it when I choose the "Loading standard view | Load basic HTML (for slow connections)" option.

    Why change and cause all this problem for users?

    I'm reverting to hotmail.


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