Google’s flawed IM email experiment

Google's new email feature is a mistake Photo: Google's new GMAIL ap

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2013 - The latest iteration of Google’s email system, Gmail, is a stellar example of the old adage that change purely for the sake of change rarely provides the benefits envisioned.

Earlier this week, Google unveiled a new default setting that altered the manner in which individual users compose emails on Gmail. The new compose feature acts like a popup window that feels more like an instant message chat window instead of a complete e-mail. It is narrow and slammed against the right side of the screen rather than a larger width as previously the norm.

According to Google’s official blog, the new compose feature launched in October of last year. Google claims that popular response has been positive and that user’s have stated “how much easier it is to multitask!” This may be true for short, dialogic email responses, or compositions that don’t require high word counts or attachments.

Truth is, the new updates only work well for short blasted and informal messages.  If a user wants to send a message with substance that isn’t appropriate as an electronic post-it-note, any gains envisioned by Google engineers have been undermined.

Google’s attempt to make composing e-mail faster and easier has inadvertently removed some of the important functionality and utility that many users still require. For those who have to write more than 140 characters, proofread before clicking send, upload and double check attachments, or verify appropriate recipient email addresses (especially for those recipients that have multiple email accounts [al la work versus personal email address]), this update is a downright leap backward. 

Luckily, there is a temporary fix that can easily be implemented. Even so, it would appear that Google is not going to make that option permanent.  While many users will accept the new changes with little more than a few days of frustration, others will lament the forced changes but grudgingly accept, as Gmail is free. However, that’s not entirely true.

Many users pay for extra storage and others use Google Apps accounts for business e-mails (this author included), which raises the question: Is Google going to cram changes down its paying customer throats with little to no recourse?  I guess only time will tell, but change for the sake of change and change for the sake of claiming to revolutionize something may actually be counterproductive.

Perhaps the new compose feature is part of Google’s April 1st announcement regarding the launch of Gmail Blue. If so, someone should really tell Google that April Fools Day has been over for sometime now.

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Timothy W. Coleman

Timothy W. Coleman is a writer, analyst, and a technophile. He primarily focuses on international affairs, security, and technology matters, but Tim has a keen interest in history, politics and archeology, having visited more than 20 Mayan ruins in Central America alone.

Tim started off on Capitol Hill, worked on a successful US Senate campaign, and subsequently joined a full-­‐service, technology marketing communications firm. He has co-­‐founded two technology startup firms, is a contributing editor at and he is an intelligence analyst at the Langley Intelligence Group Network ( where he specializes in aerospace, naval, and cyber security analysis.

Coleman completed his BA from Georgetown University, an MBA in Finance from Barry University, a Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University at NASA Ames, and a Master’s of Public and International Affairs with a major in Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Coleman volunteers and serves as a member of the board of directors at the Lint Center for National Security Studies. 


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