GOOGLE HAS released arguably its biggest update to Gmail in its 14-year history.
The update, which is live on an opt-in basis worldwide from Wednesday morning, includes a whole raft of new features and a refinement to the user interface.
Many of the new features come about as a result of the popularity of G Suite for businesses, with this update representing the first feature revamp since Google's apps became a serious alternative to Microsoft.
As expected, big addition is confidential mode. This encompasses a number of features, including an expiration setting that will make emails disappear after a set length of time. Most crucially, emails set as 'confidential' cannot be forwarded or replied to directly, which could reduce the risk of accidental leakage.
In addition, confidential emails don't ever get saved locally - they're in the cloud and you need to have a 2FA code to access them. If the sender doesn't have 2FA activated, you will be able to send them a one-use code by SMS.
If this sets alarm bells ringing, don't forget that Google - unlike AOL and Yahoo - no longer uses Gmail to scan for advertising preferences.
Emails that have been sitting unloved will now get nudges - basically calls to arms. This might be because you've used the new'‘snooze' feature, or the AI (yes, it was inevitable that AI would be involved) has noticed that it isn't just another circular from a clothes shop you once bought a pair of pants from five years ago.
Google reckons this will save 100 million emails from being opened unnecessarily. Nudges will prevent eight percent of users ‘dropping the ball' per week - that's 1.6 million 'dropped balls' per month.
For mobile users who inexplicably have their alert set up for every single new email, you can now rely on AI here too. High Priority Notifications, as the name suggests, uses intelligence (with a little guidance from you) to ensure you only get bing-bonged when there's something important to see.
Google believes this will reduce notifications by half for most users, and notifications on mobile by up to 97 per cent across the board.
A new Unsubscribe feature will intelligently ask you if you really want to keep getting emails from a mailing list you never read - which Google thinks will benefit 60 per cent of us.
Security warnings have been improved, which means that those messages warning you that an email might be spam or a spoof are now taking up a third of the screen. You won't miss them now.
And Smart Reply - quick, potted, AI-powered replies - have been added to the web, as they were to Android last year.
Nothing is gone, though some features that had perpetually been stuck in Labs have now graduated. In fact, there is a definite gain here for users of G Suite apps - there is now a sidebar which can be used to display other apps including Calendar and the new dedicated Tasks app.
Yes, bizarrely, even though Gmail has included Tasks from the outset, this marks the first time it has had its own app.
With all this going on, one of the questions that we found ourselves asking is what this all means for Google Inbox. A lot of the features here are new to Gmail but have been part of Inbox for a long time.
The answer is that Inbox will continue to be a public sandpit for new ideas and the fact that the existing ones have graduated (in many cases) is far from the end, it just means that Inbox will be trying some even more bleeding edge stuff in the coming months.
Roll out starts immediately. You'll notice the option to come in or rollback in the coming days. After an undetermined period, it will be switched on by default with the option to opt out. Then it will become the only option for new users, and finally become the only option - however, Google's timescales are flexible and based on when people are comfortable with the changes.
We've only had a little time with the new Gmail, but cautiously - so far, so good. µ
But it's not yet available here in Blighty
We're not sure this is what The Maybot had in mind
Typical politicians - meme, meme, me
But it keeps the juicy details firmly under wraps