Gmail’s biggest redesign is now live

April 25, 2018

The world’s most popular email service is getting a big overhaul. Google is making official the changes we saw leaked earlier this month, with email snoozing, nudging, and confidential mode making their debut alongside a substantial visual redesign for Gmail on the web. The new Gmail begins a global phased rollout, which is to say that it won’t be available to every one of Gmail’s 1.4 billion users right away, and the first to get it will be invited to opt in rather than being able to just turn it on.

Speaking with The Verge ahead of the launch, Jacob Bank, lead product manager for Gmail, says that Google’s redesign was done with an eye on “making people safer and more productive.” Those sound like the priorities of business users, and there’s a distinct sense among the series of changes Google has made that we’re all going to be treated a lot more like Google’s business customers.

The safety pillar centers around a new confidential mode. This allows the sender to set an expiration date for a sensitive email or to revoke it entirely. Google makes it work by not sending the confidential content directly—you’re only sending a link to the content, which lives in your mailbox and is accessed by the recipient either via their Gmail account or, if they use another email service, https. In both cases, you, the sender, are in charge of how long the other party can access the message. You’re basically handing out a time-limited access license.

Integrated rights management (IRM) is one of a number of business-centric features making it into the new Gmail for everyone, allowing you to block the forwarding, copying, downloading, or printing of particular messages. It’s obviously not going to prevent deliberate data extraction from such emails, but Google believes there’s a wide range of circumstances where people accidentally or unwittingly share information with the wrong person, and that’s the problem the company hopes to ameliorate.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) on a per-message basis is also being added in under the umbrella of confidential mode. You can request that the recipient authenticate with a passcode received via text message before they’re able to open a confidential email.

Alas, as big a change as confidential mode and its ancillary IRM and 2FA facets are for the new Gmail, it seems like they won’t be ready straight away, with Google promising we’ll be able to start using the secure mode “in the coming weeks.”

Google is also touting some of the results of a behind-the-scenes security redesign focused on preventing phishing scams.

The Verge has the full story

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