New webmail user interface being tested on beta server

Rob Mueller – 23 December 2011

Just in time for Christmas, we're releasing our new webmail interface for testing on our beta server.

The new interface is the culmination of many months of work from many different team members, and has a number of new and powerful features.

  1. Full AJAX design with caching, pre-fetching and optimistic actions

    Rather than having to reload the entire page on each view or action, only the data that is needed is loaded from the server and displayed on the page. After you've viewed a message, that data is cached while you're logged in, so viewing the message again is instant. While viewing a message, next and previous messages are pre-loaded so moving between messages is very quick. When applying an action (e.g. move message, delete message, etc.), the action is immediately applied on the screen and sent to the server making actions appear instant.

    Like the previous interface, there's many keyboard shortcuts like 'j' and 'k' to move to the next/previous message, 'x' to mark message, 'm' to move the current/selected message(s), 'g' to search the folder listing, and '.' (dot) to bring up the action menu for the current/selected message(s).

    All these features put together make using the new interface one of the fastest mail experiences available.

  2. Full conversations support across folders

    All messages are grouped together into conversations. A conversation represents the back and forth sending of messages on a particular topic. The conversation system we've built works across folders, so when clicking on a conversation to read it, you'll see a stream of all related messages in all folders, including any messages filed into other folders, your own sent messages in your Sent Items folder, and any unfinished drafts you might have started in reply to a message in a conversation.

    This allows you to quickly see the historical context of any new message without having to dig through your saved messages to see the past messages, or what you sent in your last message.

  3. Archiving is the new default action

    After looking at the statistics of mailboxes on our system, we found that many people didn't create any folders in their accounts, and instead just kept everything in their Inbox. This results in a large and cluttered Inbox, and makes it harder to find messages that need dealing with or responding to. Because of the large increase in storage space available to most people relative to the volume of email they get, the old paradigm of deleting email as soon as you've read it is less relevant, and instead it's better just to save it in an Archive.

    So to make managing your email easier, we've now made Archive the default action. You can think of Archiving an email as "I just don't want to see this in my Inbox any more, but I don't want to permanently delete it either".

  4. Push updates when new email arrives

    When new emails arrive in your Inbox, they'll be immediately pushed to your browser, no need to refresh to see when new emails have arrived.

We hope you enjoy trying out the new interface and the powerful new features.

A further note: the new interface is a work in progress. Look out for further updates posted to our blog in the new year.