Tag Archives | Gmail
The tension’s definitely ratcheting up as Google and China trade accusations and denials over who’s responsible for weeks of sluggish Gmail service.
Google recently claimed no foul and blamed China for turning the country’s version of Gmail into a slideshow. The company then took it one further, suggesting the slowdown was “a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail” (though Google didn’t offer technical evidence to illustrate the problem).
As the slowdown continues to morph into an “all but” shutdown, it’s China’s turn to deny. Beijing officially rejected Google’s claims yesterday, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson calling the accusations “unacceptable” at a routine news conference, though that’s all she said.
The concept of “free internet” never really takes hold until the very first moment you sit down at a Chinese computer and type in “Facebook.com.” Here in China, it’s blocked. And even though tech giant Google pulled out of mainland China over a year ago, it’s only been harder to access Google’s services recently.
One of the most noticeable effects of China’s Great Firewall as of late has been Gmail’s increased inaccessibility. The slowdown has been reportedly going on for weeks, since early March. A source in Beijing reports that Gmail has been “…slower definitely. By far. Sometimes we’ve been unable to connect, and many times unable to use Gchat.”
One of Gmail’s best, least high-profile features is the Google Docs Viewer, which does a very solid job of displaying the contents of file attachments without requiring you to download them or have the appropriate application installed. (Its PDF support is so nicely done that I rarely download Acrobat files anymore.) And now Google is adding support for a dozen more formats, from the essential (Excel) to the surprisingly arcane (fonts in TTF format).
What a difference the little things make.
Before today, I hadn’t found much use for Google Chrome’s pinned tabs, which you can stick to the side of the screen by left clicking any tab and selecting “pin tab” from the drop-down menu. They’d be great for social and message-based Websites that you want to leave open all the time, but without the ability to show dynamic activity, such as unread messages in Gmail, pinned tabs don’t live up to their potential.
A new feature in Gmail Labs called “Unread message icon” addresses that issue for Google’s mail service, at least. Activating the feature adds a count of unread messages to Gmail’s pinned tab favicon, so you no longer have to switch tabs to see how many e-mails are waiting. With this information available at a glance, I may no longer have to confine Gmail to its own browser window.
But why stop there? Google should now extend pinned tab notifications to third-parties. Make it a feature of the Chrome Web Store, so TweetDeck’s app can let you know when someone’s pinged you on Twitter, or so chat apps can tell you exactly how many messages are waiting. Heck, add notifications to the Chrome home screen, so those web app icons don’t seem so much like glorified bookmarks. (A bunch of apps with numeric badges on them would, after all, look a bit like the iOS home screen.)
For now, an extension called Favicon Alerts provides a nice workaround: It appends message counts to pinned tabs for any website that displays this kind of information in the title bar.
The ability to place free calls to (and receive calls from) landlines via Google Voice from within Gmail is one of Google’s least flashy but most useful offerings. (The quality is spectacular–I never bother with a headphone, and nobody’s ever asked me “Hey, am I on speaker?”). And now Google says this service will remain free through the end of next year.
I do have a request, though–one I suspect Google will eventually address: I’d like to be able to place and make calls from within Google Voice itself, not just Gmail.
I have two Gmail accounts: a personal one and a Google Apps one (at Technologizer.com) which I use for work. The fact that I can’t be logged into both at one time in the same browser is a hassle. I’d hoped today’s introduction of a Gmail feature that lets you grant access to another user (including yourself, at another Gmail account) would fix this. But it turns out you can only let in e-mail accounts at the same domain, so the new feature doesn’t help me. (When I’m on a Mac, I use a program called Mailplane to hop back and forth between the two accounts with one click.)
Google has tweaked Gmail’s interesting, ambitious, and occasionally aggravating Priority Inbox feature. One feature sounds essential: It now explains why it thinks a particular message is important.
Google Apps–the suite of Web-based productivity tools that’s useful for everybody from individual consumers to big businesses–is among Google has come up with to date. But if you have a Google Apps account, there’s been far more stuff that wasn’t available than was: everything from major services such as Picasa and Google Voice to potentially useful obscurities such as Google Base. That’s because logging into a Google Apps account only provided access to Gmail, the Google Docs office editors, Google Sites, and a few other services.
Starting today, that’s changed: Sign up for Google Apps, and you can use your account to access more than sixty Google services. Why did it take so long? The company says it wanted to make sure that its infrastructure was ready to handle it. And it wasn’t always sure that companies would want a consumery service such as the Picasa’s photo albums to be part of a business-oriented offering like Google Apps. But it says that many customers have asked for Picasa, Blogger, and other services that haven’t been part of Apps. And some of the new arrivals, such as Google Analytics, are very businessy.
Hey, I can’t get into either of my Gmail accounts. Looks like I have plenty of company.