Google Inbox was launched in beta last week from the Gmail development team. It's meant to change the way we read email, and it may be the first step in replacing their own Gmail.
On Wednesday, Google rolled out a new email app they call Inbox. At first, some news outlets thought Google Inbox was an expansion of Gmail. ABC News described Inbox as "a complement to Gmail." However, Google's official announcement made it clear that isn't the case.
"Years in the making, Inbox is by the same people who brought you Gmail, but it's not Gmail," read Google's blog.
The confusion is understandable. Google Inbox works with current Gmail addresses.
Confusion aside, Google Inbox has the potentially to significantly alter how we use and read email. Inbox is meant to help people sort through the clutter of too many email messages by featuring what's important and grouping together not just emails in the same thread, but emails about similar topics. This is done by the use of three features: Bundles, Highlights, and the trio of Reminders, Assists, and Snooze.
Bundles are an expansion of Gmail categories that were rolled out last year. Email messages with similar contents, like bank statements and receipts, are grouped together. Users can teach Google Inbox which emails should be grouped together.
Highlights help the important information stand out. Flight itineraries, event info, photos, and documents sent from friends and family will pop out more. Relevant and useful information from the web will also get pulled in to Google Inbox to help with the process.
Reminders, Assists, and Snooze is a trio of features to help with to-do lists. Reminders make sure you don't forget to do the laundry or pick up Timmy from school. Assists will provide extra information, such as the address for your laundromat or Timmy's school. And Snooze lets you procrastinate by putting the task off for later.
Google initially released a wave of invitations to try out the beta release of Google Inbox. The impatient can email Inbox@google.com to request an invitation. Not three days later, Google opened Inbox up more by allowing users who already have access to send out invitations of their own.
Mashable sees Google Inbox as "an app with an identity crisis" due to it sort of syncing with Gmail but not always. Mike Elgan at Computerworld believes that Google Inbox will eventually replace Gmail, which he predicts will be discontinued in five years.
"The reason is that Google is in the algorithm business, using user-activity 'signals' to customize and personalize the online experience and the ads that are served up as a result of those signals," Elgan wrote. "Google exists to mediate the unmediated. That's what it does."
Time will tell if Google Inbox will become the new way we experience email, leaving Gmail to the past.