Icky or Not, New Ads Make Gmail Worse

More work stands between users and a squeaky clean inbox.

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If you’ve recently switched over to Gmail’s new auto-organizing inbox lately, you may have noticed some new ads in an unsightly place.

As Google Operating System and others have reported, advertisements are starting to show up within the “Promotions” tab of the new inbox. These messages have a different color background, along with a little “ad” notation, but they otherwise look similar to real e-mails, complete with a sender, subject and bold text in the style of an unread message.

The key distinction is that these aren’t actual messages. Google hasn’t been handing users’ e-mail addresses over to advertisers. Instead, it’s picking out promotional offers that it thinks you might like and sticking them in a section of your inbox.

A lot of the surrounding discussion has been about whether the new ads qualify as spam or are a justifiable way for Google to make money. VentureBeat cries foul. TechCrunch tells everyone to relax. Inevitably, a certain tired and broken truism about the nature of free Internet services makes an appearance.

The bigger issue, though, is how much worse of an experience Gmail becomes as a result of these ads. Obviously, Google sees the ads as an improvement, defending them in a statement to CNet:

As always, advertising keeps Google and Gmail free to use. We work hard to make ads safe, unobtrusive, and relevant. Instead of ads always appearing at the top of your inbox, they’ve been relegated to a more appropriate place in your Promotions tab to create a better overall experience.

I disagree, and my reasoning is tied into an existing dislike of the new inbox. As a compulsive e-mail checker, I find that scattering new messages across a handful of folders just creates more work for me. With the new inbox, if I want to check my e-mail, I need to peek into four locations instead one. That’s not an improvement.

Likewise, the new ads create an additional point of friction. The lack of separation from real messages means you might not recognize them as ads upon first glance. The only way to get rid of them is to click the “X” button, inconveniently on the right side of your inbox, opposite from where the usual e-mail selection boxes reside. The ads are yet another thing to deal with when you’re trying to sort through your inbox, which if it’s like mine is already chaotic enough as is.

Fortunately, the new Gmail inbox isn’t mandatory. You can get rid of it by clicking the gear icon on the top-right corner of the screen and going to “Configure Inbox.” From there, you can deselect all the boxes except “Primary” to go back to the old inbox. You can also just deselect “Promotions” if you like the new inbox sorting but don’t want to see the new ads.

10 comments
jmtextor
jmtextor

It states clearly next to the email that it is an ad.  You also have the option to turn off the advertising that is geared towards your interests.  Google made that clear when they started doing it.  You do have a choice. 

napoleon59
napoleon59

I just love the new interface of Gmail. It just takes a few days to get used to it after which everyone I have talked to have loved it. You either wrote the article too soon or had other biases.  It is clutter free and you know exactly what you expect where. 


akay967
akay967

And if you are not interested in advertisements, which I am surely not, you have the wonderful option of choosing not to read the promo tabs.

akay967
akay967

Actually, Gmail is pretty awesome. They have three different folders so that you don't even see promo mail unless you click on the promo folder. I believe they have changed things so that you don't get any promo mail and the mail that you get is generally just from your contacts. Its pretty good! Companies or websites like outlook will do anything to make something else look bad which is a contradiction on their part.

heisenman
heisenman

I didn't care much for the new tabs AT FIRST. But now I actually dig them.  Although I must say I'm surprised at how much promo mail I was getting and how little actual email was coming my way. Sheesh!

cac1031
cac1031

I love the new Gmail layout.  For me, its automatic sorting is very useful.  Complaining about  ads in the promotion category is much ado about nothing.

mwangi
mwangi

I don't see where the problem is. It's pretty unobtrusive considering you expect ads to be in the "Promotions" tab. It's expected promotions from websites you've subscribed to will end up here too, a small ad here and there never killed anyone. Pretty small price to pay for the great services, I would say.

IntangibleGuy
IntangibleGuy

Google and Gmail free to use !!

That is the biggest misapprehension in business and I can't believe the author still lives in such a delusion. Just because something is payed via ads doesn't mean it's FREE !! It's just payed in a different way but it is payed (!!!).

In case of Google the currency is called "privacy". And Google actually asks quite of lot of "privacy" currency for what it delivers.

tripathiakshit
tripathiakshit

It is very true. I almost clicked on it many times thinking its a new mail!

luigicappel
luigicappel

I think you've just saved me the bother of trying it out:)