Gmail to add mind-reading priority mailbox

Posted Aug. 31, 2010 at 6:07 a.m.

Google is adding a new feature in Gmail that will automatically spotlight important e-mails and separate out the ones you can wait to read later.

The tool, called “priority inbox,“ works like a spam filter, except instead of filtering e-mails that you definitely don’t want to see, it moves the ones you really want to the top. Google said the feature will help users sort through inboxes that fill up with hundreds of automated e-mails that don’t need immediate attention.

“It used to be that people just wanted to separate spam from non-spam, but increasingly the non-spam has been varying in quality,“ said Keith Coleman, Gmail’s product director. “We want to help people get through their mailboxes much more quickly and spend more time on what’s really important to them.“

The feature is automated, and determines whether an e-mail is important by seeing whether a user has opened or replied to e-mails like it in the past. Users can also train Gmail on which e-mails are more important than others with new “ “ and “-“ buttons that set priorities.

Google tested the new inbox with more than 10,000 employees, and found that the amount of time users spent in Gmail fell by 13 percent.

Few companies want to minimize the time users spend with their products, and Google makes money by getting users to click on the advertisements that show up in the margins and in a banner on top of the Gmail screen. But Coleman said less time spent in Gmail isn’t a worry, since the unit’s “first priority is always making users happy.“

What should worry Google is a strong series of updates to Microsoft’s Office suite, including improvements to the company’s e-mail client Outlook 2010. The new Outlook incorporates many of the features that once helped Gmail lead the pack, including linked conversations, quick search, instant messaging and the ability to ignore entire conversations with one click of a button.

With priority inbox, Gmail is once again introducing an innovative feature its competitors lack. That could be good news for Google, which has been slow to bring in new corporate customers for the business applications suite that includes a more powerful form of Gmail.

But consumers may be startled by yet another change to their Gmail inboxes. It’s the third change in as many weeks, including a new contacts feature, a phone call application, and now, a brand-new inbox.

“We try to introduce things with smooth evolutions,“ Coleman said. “We hope these aren’t disruptive changes for people. We believe priority inbox is something people will choose to use.“

If priority inbox isn’t for you, the feature can be easily shut off with just a few clicks. The old inbox is still accessible in the navigation links on the side, and Gmail automatically opens the inbox used in the previous session.

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  1. Computer News Aug. 31, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I see how people can live comfortably with rudimentary technology.

  2. Ymail user CAM Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Yahoo has an add-in application called Other In Box (OIB). It doesn’t sound as sophisticated but has been a great help in organizing mail inbox. “Not as sophisticated” means I know what it will do and it does it well and not something I don’t want it to do .. sounds like Gmail’s might be a little tricky with that. In the end, I welcome any advance in helping us better deal with emails.

  3. first.TheTruth01 Aug. 31, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    This is just more ultra-hype, bogus maximus, solid waste google marketing.

    Prioritizing incoming emails tools have been around for well over 20 years. Google lies when they portray this tool as a major new development. The problem is 95% of google’s users are too dumb or too young or both to know the Truth.

  4. Dan Korn Aug. 31, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Mind-reading? Who wrote this headline, a guest editor from the National Enquirer?

  5. Carolyn Aug. 31, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    I feel the email providers need to leave people’s email accounts alone.
    I do not anymore use my gmail account. I was told that Google owns the gmail accounts.

    On my email account even some emails that I sent to myself were viciously red flagged. There was absolutely nothing dangerous involving my emails and they did involve the truth of reality. I will go through my own email account as I see fit. Not only has gmail started this others have also started done it.