Gmail Labs Will Make Us All Mad Scientists

Ann All

Product developers no longer sit in an Ivory Tower. Now they mingle with the masses, the better to find out what they want. In some cases, the masses become the product developers.


Benefits of this approach include quicker time-to-market, more diverse ideas and happier customers, all of which Google likely hopes to gain with Gmail Labs, a tab on the Gmail Settings page that presents a number of experimental Gmail features for users to try out and weigh in on. Google made a similar move last October with Google Enterprise Labs, which is supposed to speed the introduction of new features for its enterprise search customers.


Features will be evaluated for stability, but not for user interface coherence or product viability, before they show up on Google Labs, reports InformationWeek. Popular features will likely show up in Gmail, while others will not.


Certain feedback links will take users to a Google Groups discussion where they can interact with the engineers who created applications. Gmail product manager Keith Coleman tells InformationWeek that Google may eventually allow users to develop features or add-ons, though he didn't discuss details. The idea of do-it-yourself software development is gaining increasing traction in the enterprise, with the backing of corporate bigwigs such as IBM and SAP.


Says Coleman:

We want to build basically the model of a 100 million user startup, where people can do whatever they want, as they would with a nimble startup, but can actually have the reach of a large popular product like Gmail.

Cool. Next maybe Google will take some of us on walks through the desert with Bedouin guides.

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