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SATURDAY, MAY 28, 2016
For those of you old enough to recall the Great Google Take Over of the earlier days of this new millenium, you will recall one exciting day: The day Google Labs was released. It was an exciting time - a corporation to exercise such transparency, teasing it's users with a great slew of tools to come. Many of these have since become "graduates" and things we have incorporated into our lives so much to the point that it's hard to remember how we ever got to John's house party before the aid of Google Maps.

More recently, in this past year, Google's GMail team took a similar approach with GMail Labs. Remembering the day I first saw Google Labs, I immediately went to check out GMail Labs expecting a vast array of useful and innovating tools that would improve my emailing experience. And while I wasn't entirely disappointed with the features I saw, I expected much much more.

My goal is not to review the Lab tools, but really comment on the bizarre approach Google has taken. In the days when Google was just a search engine, it was huge news when they started offering a map service far superior to MapQuest. To date, they have not had a similar breakthrough with their GMail tools. Instead I see silly gimmicks that aren't so much useful as they novelties. You see the tool, you chuckle. You don't install it, and thus you never use it. Some personal examples being the Muzzle feature - which hides GChat statuses, the Email Addict which blocks you from emailing for 15 minutes, the Canned Responses, etc.

While they have some nice innovations like the Forgotten Attachment Detector, which detects whether you intended to include an attachment, there's really a lot on there that I'm confused why Google would have considered it's implementation to begin with. Some of the features are not even new features, but are only new features within the GMail web client.

Google had really raised the bar with it's original Google Labs, and so far I've just found myself look at their GMail Labs with puzzlement. I even consider some of the GMail features on par with amateur hobby developers who put out silly bits of code that are largely unusable. Like Mail Goggles - a feature which asks you to perform some simple arithmetic before sending your email, to ensure you are in a sober state. This is something I'd expect from a basement website, not a corporation that has redefined the internet. Or maybe that's what Google's been going for?

Most peculiarly is the option to set Reply All as a default. Anyone who has ever been on a mailing list that has had at least 1 argumentative person, or one person who doesn't know when it's best to use Reply All, knows how frustrating Reply All can be. Side chats, huge attachments that get sent and resent, heated political debates, frustrated messages sent to the mass saying "Stop with the Reply All!", only to be responded to by a smart-alec, who has also hit Reply All saying "You hit reply all yourself..." Does Google really see this as a useful innovation? To me it just looks like a way for me to hit my alotted disk space of emails far faster than Google can increase it.

What's more curious is that with so many server issues, and GChat bugs, why are they focussing their efforts on Mail Goggles, instead of fixing the known issues? Especially when these efforts are so silly, why bother? My suggestion is simple: Rename GMail Labs. It's a misnomer. It's not a "Lab" - it's a library of applications and features. An AppStore. Call it Application Library. It may not sound as nice, but Labs? Really?


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