Inside Google’s Gmail: What’s Next?  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , , ,

Earlier this week, I sat down with Gmail Product Manager Todd Jackson to talk about the future of the service and to find out what's been keeping the team busy behind the scenes. Here are five tidbits from our meeting you might find interesting.

1. More Themes are coming - including ones designed by you.

No new Gmail Themes have been added since the feature launch in late November, but Jackson says more of the skins are coming. "We want to keep adding Themes. People like it. We don't know exactly how we'll do that yet. The 30 Themes that we chose were hand-designed to look great in Gmail."

Jackson says the team was split on whether to open up the design process to third parties, like what's been done on Google's customizable start page, iGoogle.

"We've thought about continuing to do it the way we did, and we thought about opening it up for other people to (design them)." Most of the hesitation has centered around Gmail's design, which makes skinning tricky business. "Gmail's structure is an application that's written all in JavaScript. It's a different beast. The detail level we did on Themes--we went pretty deep."

That complexity doesn't mean that the Gmail folks are beyond letting users design their own themes. When pressed if there would one day be a design-your-own Theme tool, Jackson said the closest thing users might be getting is a tool that lets them choose the colors of each Gmail element, similar to the color picker used for Gmail's labeling system.

As to when new Themes are coming, Jackson wouldn't say. However, I got a peek at a few rejects and early mock-ups, including several iterations of plaid that would get the lumberjack or golfer in all of us a little excited. Gmail via Safari and Mail. app is all you're getting for now.

2. No iPhone Gmail app in the works

For iPhone users who are fed up with Apple's built-in Mail application and wish that they could get a native Gmail application like the ones for Android and J2ME phones--don't hold your breath. "We could make one for mail, potentially," Jackson said, "but we'd also have to make one for Palm and BlackBerry. For each platform, it's time consuming."

Instead Jackson thinks the future of Gmail on phones centers around improved 3G coverage and new standards such as HTML 5 that will make using Gmail on your handset's browser less painful. "If we can design for the Web and give you the client-like experience that you're used to getting with Gmail on your browser, it's going to be a good experience."

3. Video chat is capable of HD

Gmail got video chat last year. However, instead of using Adobe's Flash to serve up the video, Google went with a small 2MB plug-in that had to be installed on your machine. Jackson says the team had gone back and forth between doing the add-on and Flash, but in the end, what mattered was quality, which the plug-in delivered. Going forward, Jackson says the plug-in route will be able to provide even higher-quality video as people's connections improve, going to Video Graphics Array (640x480 pixels) all the way up to high definition. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Jan 21, 2009 at 7:40 AM and is filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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