Google Sheds Threading to Make Gmail Feel Like Outlook

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-29 Print this article Print

Hewing to its pledge to provide choice for its 180 million or so e-mail users, Google has backed off its adherence to its beloved "conversation view" by allowing users to receive e-mail messages in chronological order.

The chronological order is the traditional method of viewing messages and is employed by Microsoft Outlook, the leading on-premise e-mail client used by more than 500 million people.

Google viewed this method as inefficient and tedious and designed its Gmail Webmail client to group messages between sender and recipient in a mini cluster, called a thread.

The thread, which Google calls conversation view, makes it super easy for users to find entire message exchange sessions between users.

Ideally, this saves time. Still, enough people used Outlook, or Eudora for enough years to become comfortable with the traditional chronological view.

This was a source of contention between Google and some of its Gmail users, said Google engineer Dong Chen:

Conversation view is perhaps Gmail's most hotly debated feature. Threading enthusiasts say they spend less mental energy drawing connections between related messages and that their inboxes are much less cluttered. On the other hand, e-mail traditionalists like many former Outlook users think conversation just complicates something that has worked for years.

In comes Google to the rescue, letting users toggle between conversation view and seeing messages individually in chronological order. Check it out:

Gmail Conversation View.png

This choice, and again this feature is about providing users choice, will be rolling out starting tomorrow in all languages as a standard feature in Gmail Settings for all Gmail users.

This includes including business Google Apps business customers that have "enable prerelease features" turned on in the control panel.

I get Google's motives about choice and all, but why not offer this 5 years ago before Gmail had almost 200 million users?

Must be the Google Apps enterprise imperative, joining efforts such as Microsoft Outlook synchronization, native BlackBerry integration and IMAP support.

Google also recently launched Priority Inbox to enable users to filter Gmail messages by importance. Clearly, the company is heavily invested in the platform. That's a great sign for Gmail users. What's good for users, ultimately, should be good for Google. |

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