Google lets users experiment with Gmail

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Written on 11:02 AM by Switch

Google invited members of the press to its main campus in Mountain View today to unveil Gmail Labs. Gmail Labs is essentially a stage for Google employees to develop new features for Gmail under the public eye. Starting at 6pm PT tonight, all Gmail users in the US and UK will see a new tab in the settings area called “Labs”. The tab will show a selection of beta features, such as “Pictures in Chat”, which (unsurprisingly) puts portraits in chat sessions, and “Mouse Gestures”, which allows you to navigate Gmail using mouse gestures. After testing these features, users will be able to submit feedback directly to the developers themselves. Google will decide to incorporate some of these features into Gmail as default enhancements based on the feedback and total usage of each. This makes potential beta testers out of the millions of Gmail users out there.

Gmail product manager Keith Coleman says that any Google employee can add their creations to this tab once they go through a simple code check. Pretty much any idea will fly, even recreating the game Snake within Gmail, or creating a fun feature that locks users out from Gmail for 15 minutes so they can take a break. Developers are given full access to the entire Gmail code base, so they can modify almost anything (although Coleman avoided the question of whether a feature could be developed that removed ads). Google has traditionally tested feature additions to Gmail within the company by making them available first to other employees. This is the first time they’ve opened the testing process and brought in outsiders on such a large scale.



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