Gmail’s look hasn’t changed much over the past ten years: Even its 2011 update, billed as a major overhaul, focused more on streamlining the interface than altering its features.
But if the current flurry of rumors proves true, the desktop version of Gmail could soon look very different.
According to screenshots posted on Geek (and later reprinted by Mashable and other outlets), the Gmail version currently under development bears a strong resemblance to Google Plus, the search-engine giant’s social network.
Like Google Plus, this rumored version of Gmail features a drop-down menu on the left, which would replace the lengthy, locked-down list of email and messaging options on the current interface. A set of colorful icons on the right side would allow users to set reminders, start a new email, and more:
“This interface also includes the new pin system that was spotted in the last Gmail leak, which replaces stars in Gmail as a way to bring focus to important emails,” Geek added. “You can use the toggle at the top of the UI to drag your pinned emails to the top of the pile, or leave it switched off and see everything in the order it arrived in your Inbox.”
Should Google overhaul Gmail, it’ll risk alienating tens of millions of users. Major changes to any popular software interface (whether Facebook’s newsfeed, Yahoo’s homepage, or Microsoft’s Windows) tend to spark a negative reaction, at least at first. The question is whether users will eventually adapt—as in the case of Facebook, every time it decides to tinker with its layout—or outright rebel: Microsoft, for example, has so far failed to convince users that the touch-centric interface grafted onto Windows 8 is a good thing.
Even if users react negatively to a Gmail revamp, however, it’s also unlikely that masses of them will sprint into the welcoming arms of another email provider. Unlike most apps (or even an operating system, in these cloud-centric days), email is something that many people use on an hourly basis; a user with years of messages and files stored in a particular database could prove reluctant to jump ship. Google is probably counting on that fact.