Gmail may not change the world… but will it substantively change the way we e-mail?

communication tools, google, technology

[As I’ve noticed in my earlier Gmail commentary, I unfortunately do not have the ability to offer invites… sorry 🙁 – Adam]

With all the coverage of Gmail (to which I’ve somewhat guiltily contributed), one might snicker that Gmail’s being positioned as something that’s going to change the world.

Well, almost. 😉

I seriously think that Gmail may substantially change the way people deal with e-mail… sending, receiving, storing… leading to some interesting and not-insubstantial behavioral changes.

First, there’s the admittedly obvious possibility: that Gmail will acclimate users to archiving rather than deleting mail.

But I’m thinking there may also be quite a few other ways that Gmail will change users’ behavior, assuming the service catches on widely and wildly, as I think it will.

– Reduced quoting
Since all previous correspondence is right there in plain (conversation) view, I think people may be more apt to eliminate the redundant quoting… especially if Gmail ceases adding this into replies (particularly Gmail-to-Gmail replies) by default.

Why is this significant? For starters, it will help folks pinpoint what they’re looking for when they search through e-mails. Right now, with many folks quoting from the last bazillion e-mails in a thread because they’re too lazy to trim the quotes, their e-mails show up in searches when they may not be relevant… specifically, when the searcher was really attempting to pull up the original e-mail that they merely quoted!

In contrast, when people are encouraged to trim their quotes or at least begin to see that quoting entire previous correspondences is unnecessary, e-mail searches will become more relevant, with fewer but more targeted hits. The haystack, in effect, becomes smaller, but the needle remains the same size 🙂

– Greater sensitivity to the subject line
On one hand, I think people may be reluctant to change the subject line in an ongoing conversation for fear of ‘breaking’ the conversation (I actually got hollered at by a friend for doing just that).

But on the other hand, I believe folks may perhaps become more sensitive to the realities of both personal and public (discussion list) conversations floating to wildly different topics… and feel compelled to change the subject to split the conversation. Of course, Google’s implementation (or not) of conversation joining/splitting tools will certainly have an effect on all of this as well.

Overall, I think that the proliferation of Gmail may encourage people to pay more attention to subject lines which, IMHO, is a great thing. Personally, I’m sick and tired of people talking about hiking shoes when the subject line is still unchanged from the first e-mail in a 38-note thread that started with “Best pocketable camera for the outdoors.” After all, I may be interested in one topic and not the other, yet loathe to either waste my time reading through everything or miss discussions that I’d want to peruse.

Nowadays, it’s mostly us geeks who modify subject lines to read something like: “Hiking shoes (was: Best pocketable camera for the outdoors)” and it’d sure be great if others were as considerate… or even if Gmail helped encourage such changes! Ah, but I digress…

– Lessened reliance upon HTML e-mail
I’m assuming that Gmail will eventually support the creating / forwarding of HTML e-mail, but in the meantime, I’m wondering if people will be less apt to make use of HTML mails (creating in other clients, forwarding them in Gmail) due to the current lack of HTML e-mail support in Gmail.

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What do you think about the scenarios described above? And how else might Gmail change the way people use e-mail?

2 comments… add one
  • TheInfamousJ May 6, 2004

    You know, my 60+ boss uses MS Outlook and he archives EVERYTHING and then uses the search function when he needs to reference something. Gmail will be perfect for him when it opens up.

    You know, I think it is the younger, trash everything people who will have to redefine their email habits … I think it will fit well with people who used to have to file (in filing cabinets) their correspondence.

    Maybe this will add accountability to email and let it be admissible in a court of law … wouldn’t that be something?

  • Mark Mar 10, 2008

    Every technology has it’s different funda’s and way to work.
    And may be implemented on different platform,
    G mail is best for corporate users but still it’s not attracts the common users.

What do you think?