Great news from Google this week! They have finally given in to allowing Gmail users to turn off the feature known as “Conversations”. Some people know this as email threads. It’s now an option in the Gmail Settings under the General tab, and called “Conversation view”. It’s being rolled out this week, and I was given the option in my settings this morning.
From what I have read, many users have complained to Google, and in blog posts and articles for years (since Gmail was first rolled out) about this “conversation” feature. They have been asking for this to be an option, so those of us that hate this “feature” can finally turn it off. Again from what I read, it’s a 50/50 love/hate ratio of people that like this and those that don’t. Personally I am on the hate side. And in my own personal survey find that there are more people than not that wish to turn it off.
This “feature” wouldn’t be so bad if it was implemented in a cleaner looking manner. I think the implementation Google took is messy and confusing. From what I have read, their reasoning for forcing this on us was to differentiate themselves from other online mail services. Well choice alone and all the many other available features and options available on Gmail and their “Labs” add-on options is more than enough to differentiate themselves from the other services.
In my opinion, Google has a problem with forcing “features” on users, because I’m guessing a minority at Google seem to think it’s a good idea, and not because it’s necessarily in the users best interest. Choice and options are always the best for any customers no matter what the service. Offer features and options and allow us to turn them on and off as we wish, that’s how you gain loyalty and interest, not forcing a “feature” on users that at best only half the people want.
Another forced “feature” Google has yet to offer as an option is matching like contacts in Gmail and more importantly Android phones. When you add a new contact and the name is similar to an existing contact, it merges this new contacts information to the existing one. This “feature” was invented as the solution to merging contacts between differing services, like say on Gmail and Facebook, so they would appear as the same person. However, I can confidently speak from personal experience, this crazy feature does not work in the user’s best interest. At least it certainly does not in mine. It works well in theory only. Out of 2600 contacts in my own Android phone, it will merge almost 600 with similar names. And none of these people are the same person. And you can’t turn this auto-merging “feature” off. You must dig deep in the the option settings of each individual contact and separate them on a 1 on 1 basis. I have contacted Google and the Android team about this more than once in the past, and was told there were no plans to turn this off or offer it as an option globally.
It baffles me that such a large company can get so stubborn about simply offering these radical “features” as options. Give the users you are profiting from options in your products to keep them happy, and not put them in a position to decide if they have to stop using the product to avoid it.