First of all, let me say that while it is an interesting package, it is not without flaws. For starters, the lack of indicator when the Spam folder and/or trash have stuff in them is a bit disturbing. Sure, it’s not that much of an issue when you have a gigabyte of space but, for those of us who are particularly clean when it comes to online operations (I generally try to keep my virtual trash relatively empty), it’s a bother.
On the spam blocking end, Gmail does an OK job but is nowhere near as good as simply using Squirrelmail with SpamAssassin, or using the spamcop black-list. On the good side of this is the fact that, in the course of a day of use (about 600 messages, most of them spam), Gmail had no false positives in terms of tagging things as spam. On the bad side, it failed to tag hundreds of messages as spam. I’m assuming that Gmail has a learning curve, like other email packages, so I wouldn’t fault it yet on this but, looking at other packages, it does not pass the test in terms of being an efficient spam-blocker.
The concept of conversations is an interesting one and I can easily see how this kind of interface paradigm represents the next step in the evolution of email interfaces. It is clean, simple, and adds tremendous value, especially when tracking discussions across mailing lists. Combined with labeling, it could become a good way to manage mail.
Speaking of labeling, I was disappointed to see that every non-spam email lands in the inbox. If I set a label and/or rule against a piece of email, I would like to see that view move to a different view/folder than my inbox. Once again, under the edict of keeping things simple and clean, I generally prefer to have a relatively uncluttered inbox, with emails being filtered left and right into different folders/views.
All and all, Gmail is an interesting email package but I expected more. Maybe it was the hype; maybe it was because it’s a Google product. Either way, I’ll be following its progress over time.
moving forward, I’d like to see the Gmail team develop an API (using SOAP or XML-RPC) so a developer community could start adding features or building on top of Gmail. It seems that this is another area that Google should investigate.