Google Takes Aim at Microsoft, Again, with New Gmail

Posted on April 25, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google with 26 Comments

Google Takes Aim at Microsoft, Again, with New Gmail

Google doesn’t update Gmail very often, which is strange given its massive installed base. But the firm announced its first major Gmail update in over two years today. And this one takes aim, squarely, at both Microsoft and the enterprise.

“The all-new Gmail [provides] with a brand new look on the web, advanced security features, new applications of Google’s artificial intelligence, and even more integrations with other G Suite apps,” Google’s David Thacker writes.

To be clear, Gmail is huge: The active user base has now surpassed 1.4 billion users, Google says. That includes both free and paying (e.g. business) customers, of course. And while we still don’t quite know how many users have paid accounts, Google says that over 4 million businesses are using G Suite, of which the business version of Gmail is a part.

Here’s what’s new in today’s update.

Gmail confidential mode. Now, you can protect sensitive email content by creating expiration dates or revoking previously sent messages. Google notes that it is also possible to protect data even if a recipient’s email account has been hijacked while the message is active. This will become available for both (free) Gmail and G Suite customers.

Information Rights Management (IRM) controls. Gmail now includes built-in IRM controls so that G Suite admins can remove the option to forward, copy, download or print messages, reducing the risk of confidential information being accidentally shared with the wrong people.

Redesigned security warnings. Security warnings are now simpler to understand and give a clearer “call to action” to users.

AI features. Gmail now sports a number of AI-powered features like Nudging, Smart Reply, and high-priority notifications. Nudging proactively reminds you to follow up or respond to messages. Smart Reply, which was previously made available on mobile, prompts you with ready-made responses that are based on the email you’re reading. And high-priority notifications is a new setting that only notifies you of important messages, keeping interruptions to a minimum.

Refined UX. The Gmail for web interface has been fine-tuned with a new look and feel. You can hover over a message to see icon-based options; reference, create or edit Calendar invites; capture ideas in Keep; manage to-dos in Tasks (a new Google mobile and web app), and more easily access Gmail add-ons.

Offline. While Google has offered a special version of Gmail with offline capabilities for years, this feature is now part of the core product. Now you can “search, write, respond, delete, or archive up to 90 days of messages, just as you would working online, but offline,” Google notes. “Teams can start using offline capabilities in coming weeks.”

The new Gmail is heading out to G Suite users in the Early Adopter Program (EAP) today. Free Gmail users can enable the relevant new features today, too: Navigate to Settings > Try the new Gmail.


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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Google Takes Aim at Microsoft, Again, with New Gmail”

  1. maethorechannen

    Google doesn’t update Gmail very often, which is strange given its massive installed base.

    I would have thought the massive installed base is precisely why it's not updated very often. Even the slightest change tends to outrage a vocal minority.

  2. hrlngrv

    Re IRM, anything which can be viewed on screen can be included in screen prints, and screen prints aren't subject to DRM. Even worse if users have something like SnagIt.

  3. Stooks

    Does it finally support folders? How about your reply being at the top of a long email chain vs all the way at the bottom, but the last reply is all the way at the top?? Two reasons I just never liked Gmail.

    However the amount of data they suck out of your use of this free data mining....or service is still not going to allow me to use it again.

  4. wright_is

    Expiring and revoking emails is in many jurisdictions illegal.

    Over here, all business related emails cannot be deleted and must be stored in unalterable form for 10 years.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to wright_is:

      Expiring and revoking emails is in many jurisdictions illegal. . . .

      Private ownership and possession of handguns is illegal in many jurisdictions . . . but not all. It can be used where it's legal and avoided where it isn't.

      TBH, the best thing any e-mail system could provide would be a PREVENT REPLY ALL tag in e-mails sent to more than, say, 12 people (better, put the limit in the tag). Better still if anyone trying to do so would have their PC hijacked by a mandatory training video explaining why it's BRAIN DEAD to do so when there are long distribution lists, best if there's a short mandatory quiz at the end which the user has to pass (75% correct) or they have to view the video and take the quiz again.

      • wright_is

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Except, if you communicate with me, for example, it would be illegal for the email to disappear from my Inbox at some later date. It will be interesting to see how Google handle it - they probably won't, knowing their past form.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to wright_is:

          Actually difficult to see how Google could manage this unless both sender and receiver were using gmail. I really can't see how Google could effect expiration or deletion of e-mails received using a text mode e-mail client like mutt or pine under Linux which are configured to ignore deletion on the mail server.

          Also, there may be ways to get around this. How would your local law handle e-mails containing only attached Office files, and each of those Office files had expiration dates. The e-mail may remain in your mail system, but the attached files couldn't be opened after the expiration date. What then?

          • wright_is

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            It is GMail internal only, they have already said this. They would also, therefore, have to see where the recipient is located (where their account is registered / their home country) and disable those features on the sender's end, when they enter the email address of an affected recipient.

            I have a feeling this will prove too complicated and they will just ignore the legal requirements - it is what they generally seem to do in such situations - until they get taken to court; which will be after the recipient gets taken to court for not having all emails, and after they in turn take the sender to court for removing the emails after the fact, which is when Google will be sued...

            So, in essence, they are removing themselves from competing in the European market, for business correspondence. Making GSuite a non-product in Europe.

            • R4h1mH

              G Suite (Business edition and above) also has the Vault product which handles retention, compliance and eDiscovery for mail, chats and files. In reply to wright_is:

              • wright_is

                In reply to R4h1mH:

                The question is, how does this new feature play with that? If it removes the email from your inbox without your permission and then leaves in the compliance vault, you are doubly. screwed - you never saw the message, but there is proof you received it...

                • Richard “Rich” Fenoglio, Jr.

                  In reply to wright_is:

                  Since GMail is required on both ends, I would imagine there is some handshake that must happen to tell the sender's mailbox that the receiver can successfully retrieve the email. I do not claim to understand how GMail works, but if that is the case they could give both parties the option to disable to meet compliance and the handshake would then fail and prevent sending the message if one or both parties have this feature switched off? Only time will tell.

  5. rc

    I'm considering switching from outlook after using it for a long time, if only because their email sorting/spam filtering is just unacceptably terrible in 2018. For a company that won't shut up about AI, data, and the cloud, they have a spectacularly hard time realizing when they've sent an important email to my spam folder. The focused/other sorting is a nice idea, but it is completely useless because junk still gets into my focused inbox and direct conversations still end up in 'other'...

  6. Atoqir

    Very lazy redesign IMO.

    The hangout chat integration looks like the old style. The Google App menu and notification bubble open another old UI style. Uploading attachments or adding Drive files opens another old UI style from years past. The settings page is just a CSS style cause the save and cancel button look like some Internet Explorer 7 default button.

    The Gmail webpage now feels a bit like the first release of Windows 10. A bunch of old UI clobbered together with some new things thrown in between.

    The new was at least a complete redesign instead of a partial CSS reskin that could be mistaken for a browser extension like this Gmail redesign.

    • markwebber

      In reply to Atoqir:

      I've always used Gmail only as a secondary email to sign up for sites that could send me spam.

      Horrible confusing interface and lack of useful functionalities. Light years behind Outlook and still looks crappy even with this useless CSS tweak.

  7. dspeterson

    Does "try the new gmail" only work for certain accounts or browsers? I don't see it, had this gmail account since the invite days.

  8. chrishilton1

    O365 has recently been updated, and has been updated frequently over the years with new features and a fresh UX. I like to see Google finally do something with gmail.

  9. skane2600

    I don't see anything here that specifically relates to Microsoft unless everything Google does is considered "Taking Aiming at Microsoft". Besides, are there a lot of people out there who are still deciding which email application they want to use or review their choice on a regular basis?

  10. Bats

    I haven't used the actual Gmail site, in years. Gmail for me, has been Inbox. However, checking out Gmail because of this post,....I never knew there were Addons available! It's just like the Google Office Apps, where one can make his or her Gmail better. This is some powerful stuff.

  11. Skolvikings

    These changes (there are more than are covered here) appear to be comprehensive and very much welcomed. Not sure when I'll be able to see them since I'm using a grandfathered in free G Suite domain, but definitely looking forward to them.

  12. dontbe evil say welcome to 2010