Thursday, August 19, 2004

All About Google

I've had the good fortune to be using Google's new email product Gmail for about a month now, and I like it. I thought I would go through some its novel features and how the outline Google's approach to solving the email problem.

Email's problem is, of course, that there is too much of it, and most of it is useless. Which kinda sounds like the Web actually -- loads of pages, most of them rubbish. Just as Google used human created links to infer contextuality, and added reason to search, they seem to be using other forms of human created contextuality (such as "replies") and use that to structure email, with lashings of "search" tossed in.

One innovation is that they break the chronological order of email. In your standard inbox, the newest messages are at the top, and the oldest are crusting over at the bottom. Google still puts new messages at the top, but it also lumps threaded messages (original message, response, response to the response etc.) as a single message that only moves up to the top when there is a new posting. Clicking on that message reveals a list of headers in chronological order, and if you click a header that post, and all posts preceding it, are revealed in one long thread. Note that I cannot really call any message within an email thread an email, because where does an email begin and end? Borrowing the term "post" from message boards seems more appropriate.

This has the benefit of lumping tightly linked emails together without resorting to something that overlays the standard chronological ordering, which is how I have seen this done elsewhere (as in Apple's I think I like it, but time will tell.

A second feature, which I don't think I like, is that Google Mail discourages sending email to the Trash. Trashing email is one of the noblest activities Man can engage in, and to discourage this seems a little bonkers. Instead, Google encourages you to "archive" email, which means you put it in some folder that you can then search later. I have no doubt that Google search is very good, but deleting email is critical to good hygeine.

On the other hand, I do appreciate how hard it is to keep the inbox empty, and moving all crusty email to an "archive" folder instead of letting it fester in the inbox is certainly better than creating a rats nest of folders and then trying to figure out some unique way of filing them so you know how to get to them later.

Oh, Google has also IPO'd. Personally, I am indifferent, which I guess means that the price has been set efficiently and that there are no real gains to be made by buying it. While this may not excite the investing public, any company that wants to issue shares and cares about raising as much money as possible better be paying attention.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home