Something rather interesting is happening at the Gmail.com domain right now. Google has started notifying users of its experimental ‘Inbox By Gmail’ service that this has replaced their Gmail account…
The pop-up appears when Inbox users login and states “Thanks for trying Inbox! To make it easier we’ve updated Gmail to redirect you here”. In plain URL terms this means the standalone inbox.google.com address for the beta service disappears and Inbox instead resides at gmail.com.
The good news is any user who doesn’t want Inbox to replace Gmail has the option to “Turn it Off” which pushes both services back to their dedicated domains. That said, what’s quite clear is: 1. After 14 months of testing, Google clearly considers Inbox ready for prime time, and 2. In repositioning it over the gmail.com URL, Google sees Inbox as a replacement for Gmail rather than the separate service it has been until this point.
Interestingly Inbox users report Google has been performing this quiet migration for some time. It started several months ago notifying a very small number of users and the response has obviously been positive enough for the migration to now to be expanded in larger numbers.
I suspect the reality is somewhere in the middle: Google is looking to change the 11 year old service which has amassed over 900 million users and Inbox’s deeper trawling of user data allows it to offer a much wider range of intelligent automated features (including smart recognition of images, tickets, reminders and more). All this ties in with Google’s aim of advancing machine learning and the question of why none of it ever appeared in Gmail seems to have been answered.
That said Google also appears determined to tread very lightly with this. The opt out option is made very clear, reversing the merger can also be made in Settings and there’s a even a back-to-Gmail icon shortcut added to the Inbox menu which reverses the move for those who do switch and regret it.
None of this is surprising considering Google has been burned in this sector before. Its brilliant, radical and widely misunderstood Wave hybrid email/messaging service was canned in 2012 after just three years. Google failed to build on initial excitement and arguably held off for too long in showing how its advancements could be integrated into Gmail as users eventually tired of having two disconnected accounts.
So far Inbox hasn’t made that mistake. It uses standard gmail accounts and Google played it safe by operating it as a standalone Gmail alternative. But the two were never going to be remain permanently separated. Google doesn’t create major services for them to remain niche. It has shown that with many ruthless culls in the past, including that of the beloved Google Reader in 2013.
Even so the stakes couldn’t be higher. Gmail accounts are at the core of every single Google service as well as the Android operating system. This is one move Google cannot afford to get wrong…
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