GMail Users Asked To Test New Tools

Dennis Faas's picture

Google has found a new testing panel for its in-development software: the entire Gmail user base. The company already has a dedicated 'Labs' website for the public to test new software and give feedback. Now they are building a Labs option directly into the Gmail website, meaning every user will see the features that are being developed.

Sensibly enough, the option only includes features designed for Gmail itself, rather than general Google software. Users can read a description of each feature and turn it on or off (they are turned off by default). There's also a web address which users can type in to instantly turn off all the new features if any serious problems develop. (Source:

Perhaps the most surprising feature is Email Addict, which allows users to block themselves from using Gmail for 15 minutes. However, the feature can be overridden by simply reloading the Gmail homepage, so it's unlikely to be much use to anyone who really can't tear themselves away.

Some of the other features appear potentially useful, such as the ability to move back and forth among your messages using only your mouse, and a Quick Links menu for your favourite searches, contacts or email conversations.

But others appear fairly pointless, such as a built-in game of Snake -- pointless that is, unless you are Google and want people to spend longer on the site.

The new features have all been developed by Google staff, who are allowed to spend 20% of their working time developing new ideas. This system produced such features as Google Maps, and even Gmail itself, which ironically is still technically in the testing stage. (Source:

At the moment the features up for display seem a bit gimmicky, but by putting the Labs feature directly into such a popular site Google should get a much wider range of feedback into what ideas really are useful. At the moment they only hear the views of people who intentionally visit the Labs site, and those people are much more likely to be tech-savvy enthusiasts that hardly represent the entire Google audience.

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