In May 2009, I wrote a post speculating about something called “Magic Inbox.” What was so special about it? It was a reference found in the code of Gmail by the blog Google Operating System, and appeared to point to a new Gmail feature that would sort your email with the help of your social connections. Many of us wondered if such a feature would be launching soon. But that never happened. Well, until tonight, that is. Magic Inbox is the new Gmail Priority Inbox.
Gmail Product Director Keith Coleman made that revelation during our meeting with him last week to discuss the new Priority Inbox. Magic Inbox had been in testing at Google for a long, long time leading up to this launch. “We went through so many versions of this,” Coleman said. In fact, Coleman noted that the idea to prioritze email based on who you contact that most was an original idea for Gmail itself, but no one could nail the combination of user interface and features. Obviously now, they think they have.
Over the years, Google has tried various grouped views, and even ordering email in one inbox by order of importance, Coleman noted. But this priority filter is what they finally decided to focus on several months ago. With the feature turned on, Priority Email looks at a lot of things, such as who you email a lot, who you chat with, and who you actually read email from, among other things. That’s slightly different from the Magic Inbox code dug up last year, which seemed to be focused on the idea of “friends”.
As we’re all well aware, “friends” has been a tricky concept for Google to tackle — though they’re about to try again with whatever their upcoming social product is. For this, it was smart to go with something less predicated on a concrete social construct, and go with something more vague.
How does it work? It’s magic. We finally found out what’s in the box.