Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gmail’s Priority Inbox strikes a blow against email overload

Image representing Gmail as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Anthony Ha

Email overload has become a constant presence in my life, and I’m not the only one. Overload seems to be the big focus of many new email products, including the latest version of Microsoft Outlook. Now Google is launching an ambitious new attack on the problem called Gmail Priority Inbox.

Most of the solutions I’ve seen so far focus on organizing your inbox (for example the conversation grouping in Gmail, which Outlook has copied) and on helping you find useful information that’s buried in a pile of emails (for example a startup called Postbox, which helps you find content like links and attachments). Google’s new Priority Inbox goes a step further, by actually identifying the emails that are important, and that you need to read right away.

The feature divides your inbox into three areas, all viewable in one screen — at the top, there’s the “priority” emails, the ones you should read right away; below that are the emails you have starred (an existing Gmail feature to mark emails as comments); and the inbox with everything else. Google Enterprise Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth said that it has been a challenge developing the algorithm to find the best emails, which is based on “signals” like who sent the email, the words used, and how you’ve treated past emails.

“A message that might be important to you might not be important to me, and might be even more important to someone else,” he said.

Gmail’s Priority Inbox strikes a blow against email overload

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