Gmail Labs: These Experiments Are Graduating, These Are Retiring
Article by George Norman
On 25 Feb 2010
For Google’s software engineers Gmail Labs is a playground where they get to test all their ideas. You see, Google has a 20% time program – one day per week, software engineers are allowed to work on something that is not in the job description. The experiment they came up with, roll it out to Gmail Labs, and wait for user feedback.

Since these experiments aren’t tested all that much before being posted on Gmail Labs, they have the tendency to break. But if an experiment strikes a cord with numerous Gmail users, it is tweaked and fixed until it works like a charm. Eventually that popular experiment may even become a core component of Gmail. Like Offline Gmail for example – this experiment graduated out of Labs this December.


Speaking of which, the Gmail team announced that the following experiments will graduate out of Labs:
1. Search Autocomplete – when you start typing inside the Gmail search box, Gmail will throw suggestions your way.
2. Go To Label – has been integrated into the search box.
3. Forgotten Attachment Detector – Gmail analyzes the text of the email you’re writing and assesses whether you meant to attach a file, and then it warns you if you forgot to attach it.
4. YouTube Previews – preview videos from popular video-sharing site YouTube right inside Gmail.
5. Custom Label Colors – select from more than 4,000 possible color combinations.
6. Vacation Dates – set your vacation dates in advance and Gmail will send automatic replies while you’re on vacation.

And the following experiments will be retired:
1. Muzzle
2. Fixed Width Font
3. Email Addict
4. Location in Signature
5. Random Signature

“These decisions were made based mainly on usage, taking feature polish and your feedback into account. We've also tweaked some of the graduating features to improve them before making them default Gmail features. We'll keep working on new Labs to help make your Gmail experience even better, and we'll continue to graduate successful features and retire the ones that don’t work out to make room for new ones. Thank you to all the engineers who have worked on Labs features,” commented Software Engineer Mark Knichel.

In related news, you should know that Google rolled out Labs for Google Maps earlier this month. Just like Gmail Labs, this is the place to go when you want to turn on experimental features that are not yet ready for the primetime, features that will enhance the way you use Google Maps.

Tags: Google, Gmail, Labs
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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