Google starts to roll out 'Gmail 2.0'

A handful of Gmail users running Firefox 2 or Internet Explorer 7 will be in for something new when they check their mail this week. According to an InformationWeek report and posts on the Google Blogoscoped and official Gmail blogs, Google has begun slowly rolling out a revamped version of its popular Gmail web-based email application. The new software is available to only 1% of Gmail users right now, and those users can reportedly toggle the new version by clicking a "Newer Version" link at the top of Gmail pages.

The new Gmail is being nicknamed Gmail 2.0 by users and bloggers, but the term is a bit of a misnomer. Most improvements are behind the scenes, and screenshots suggest the user interface is left largely unchanged. However, Google is said to have rewritten Gmail's JavaScript back-end in order to speed everything up, and "Gmail 2.0" touts a new, cleaner-looking contact manager that can interface with Picasa Web Albums.

On the Gmail blog, Gmail engineer Dan Pupius states that the back-end changes will "prepare Gmail for the future." He elaborates, "You won't notice too many differences to start with, but we're using a new model that enables us to iterate faster and share components (we now use the same rich text editor as Groups and Page Creator, and the Contact Manager can be seen in several Google apps)." Pupius says a downside of the change is that third-party Gmail extensions will stop working, though.

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