Relief is finally here for Gmail users who wish the webmail service looked and functioned more like a traditional email client: Google just announced that users will soon be able to opt out of ‘conversation view’.
For those who haven’t used Gmail — or enabled its equivalent in one of the many other email clients that have replicated it — Gmail groups together all the emails in a chain of replies into a single ‘conversation’. Instead of a list of individual emails, ordered by the most recent, a Gmail inbox is a list of conversations, ordered by how recent the latest email in that conversation is.
Many people love conversations, and it’s a big part of why Gmail is so successful. But, because it is so different, people who don’t like it — including Business Insider’s Henry Blodget — find it infuriating and inexplicable that it can’t be turned off.
It seems Google felt that it simply had discovered the right answer, and that everyone would come around. The company has now, wisely, given up that hope, explaining: “We really hoped everyone would learn to love conversation view, but we came to realise that it’s just not right for some people.”
So over the next few days, Google will be rolling out the option to turn conversations off:
It will be interesting to see how many people actually opt out of conversations (if Google decides to disclose that information). For those who embrace conversations, it’s more than just a display option, it influences email behaviour. Gmailers can feel free to “reply all” to large group messages, which can act like discussion forums, without cluttering up each other’s inboxes. No matter how many people reply to a particular conversation, it’s just one item in your inbox. If you know many people using email this way, turning off conversations would bury your inbox in clutter.
Still, it makes no sense to force people to adopt this against their will. This is a great move, if long overdue.