Say hello to the new Gmail with self-destructing messages, email snoozing and more

Today, Google is launching the biggest revamp of Gmail in years. The company is bringing to the flagship Gmail service many (but not all) of the features it trialed in Inbox for Gmail, and adding a few new ones, too. With those new features, which we first reported earlier this month, the company is also introducing a refreshed design for the service, though if you’ve used Gmail before, you’ll feel right at home.

If you’ve followed along with the leaks in recent weeks, none of the new features will surprise you. It’s also not a huge surprise that Google is bringing some features from Inbox over to Gmail. What did surprise me while trying out the new service ahead of today’s launch, though, is that some features that didn’t get a lot of attention in the leaks, including the new consistent sidebar with its built-in Google Calendar, Tasks and Keep integration, are maybe among the most useful of the additions here.

But let’s start from the beginning. The new Gmail comes with a slew of new features. The first you’ll likely notice is the ability to take actions on emails right from the Inbox itself. Just like in Inbox, when you hover over an email without clicking into it, you’ll now see icons to archive and delete a message, as well as mark it as read (without ever reading it). There’s also a link to the new ‘snooze’ feature here.

When you try to snooze an email, Gmail gives you the option to resurface it later in the day, tomorrow, later this week, on the weekend or next week. If you’re a fan of a clean inbox, that’s a good way to keep your inbox empty and still rest assured that an important email that you want to take care of later will pop back up into your queue. Oddly enough, the snooze feature is only available from the inbox. There’s no way to get to it when you’re actually reading an email.

If you are more like me and don’t really care about how messy your inbox is, then the new “nudging” feature will come in handy. Here, Google uses its AI smarts to figure out that a message is probably important to you and resurfaces it to remind you to follow up or reply.

Google is now also using these same AI smarts to bring to the web its smart replies feature, which you are probably familiar with from the Gmail mobile apps.

The other major new feature in this update is “confidential mode.” The idea here is simple: When you write an email, you can select for how long the recipient will be able to read the email. Recipients will not be able to forward, copy and paste, download or print the content. You can’t stop anybody from taking a picture of the screen of course, but what’s maybe more important here is that if anybody ever hacked the recipient’s account, that email with your confidential information will be long gone. For added security, you can also add a second-factor authentication here, where the recipient will have to receive an SMS message with a Google-generated passcode to read the email.

Other new features in Gmail include high-priority notifications, which will only notify you of a new email if Google deems it to be really, really important, and unsubscribe suggestions, which nudges you to unsubscribe when it looks like you stopped reading messages from a given newsletter (low open rates are the bane of newsletter publishers, after all, so they’ll be okay if you leave).

But wait, there’s more (did I mention this is a major update?). Gmail is also getting a new built-in offline mode since it’s now a fully fledged progressive web app. You can store up to 90 days of emails and search through them, for example. This new capability will launch in the coming weeks.

Maybe my favorite new feature — and something that isn’t available in Inbox — is the new right sidebar, which comes pre-populated with a clever Google Calendar widget that gives you a view of a single day’s events and lets you add new events right from your inbox.

The sidebar also features Google Keep for note taking (though sadly, it doesn’t look like you can attach notes to emails or even drop them into a note) and Google Tasks. Tasks actually has a bit of a connection to your emails since you can drag and drop emails into the sidebar to create new tasks. Personally, I use the Trello add-on for this (and all regular Gmail add-ons will still work with the new Gmail), but I’m sure people will find plenty of uses for this.

All of those new features are supported by the new design, which itself feels more like a refresh than a revolution. Like before, you can choose between three density settings: default, comfortable and compact. The default setting is the most interesting option because it comes with a new feature, too: attachment clips. Instead of simply showing you the standard paperclip in your inbox to signify that an email chain includes an attachment, the new Gmail now highlights the attachments right underneath the message preview in the inbox view.

Unlike in Inbox by Gmail, you won’t get a full preview of an image here, but you will be able to click right into the attachment without opening up the email.

It’s worth pointing out that many standard Gmail features aren’t going anywhere. You can still use the Priority Inbox and star messages, for example. You can still sort and filter emails into different folders/categories. If you like Google’s automatic filters for promotional emails, social media updates, newsletters, etc., then you can still use those, too. And even though nobody actually understands what Google’s plans for Hangouts really is, it’s still right there in your inbox.

Sadly, one of my favorite Inbox features, the automatic grouping of travel emails (think flight confirmations, car and hotel reservations etc.) into a single bundle, has not made the move to Gmail (yet). Maybe that’ll come later.

The new design is now rolling out to regular Gmail users. As usual, you’ll be able to switch back and forth at first. Then, at some point in the future, Google will switch all users to the new design. For business users, the G Suite admin will have to enable these new features by enrolling in the G Suite Early Adopter Program.

Yahoo Mail launches new wave of updates with faster loads, photo themes, RSVPs, improved OOO

While many are on the lookout for new, big revamp of Gmail, its smaller competitor Yahoo Mail today jumped in first with its own set of updates, covering both new personalisation features and faster performance times.

The changes come about 10 months after Yahoo Mail rolled out its own major redesign, and are an extension of some of the themes that the company introduced back then.

Change and iteration is the theme of the day, it seems: today, Yahoo Mail’s parent Oath (which is also TechCrunch’s owner), also announced a new president and COO, K. Guru Gowrappan, who joins from Alibaba and had in his distant past once also worked at Yahoo, Quixey and Zynga. (Additionally, Oath’s former senior director of publisher products, Simon Khalaf, has also parted ways with the company.)

Yahoo Mail has a long road ahead of it to grow its user base, though. Putting to one side the fact that many people have stopped using email, opting instead for messaging apps and more integrated communications platforms like Slack, Yahoo Mail itself has had its own competitive and security issues.

Most pointedly, the service suffered one of the biggest user data breaches in the history of the internet, affecting more than 1 billion people and impacting the price that Verizon ultimately paid by some $350 million when it acquired Yahoo last year.

That, plus the lack of updates Yahoo Mail made over many years previously, and the swift rise of the very popular Gmail from Google and very office-friendly services like Microsoft’s, have all served to keep Yahoo Mail’s growth in strong check.

I asked for an update on active monthly users but have yet to get it. However, last year, the company said it had 225 million active users. As a point of comparison, Gmail today has well over 1 billion (based on a figure Google confirmed back in 2016). My educated guess is that the gulf between the two has only grown over time.

Still, you can say that Yahoo has been thinking ahead of the curve in some respects: last year, the company introduced a Pro version that you pay for in exchange for no advertising.

Given the wave of criticism that is now hitting Facebook — and by extension all ad-based “free” services — over just what kind of information is being gathered, bartered and used relating to us, it will be interesting to see how much more the idea of paid services in lieu of ad-based free catches on. We have asked a Yahoo Mail spokesperson for any updated numbers that can be shared on the number of subscribers.

In any case, today Yahoo Mail’s focus is on improvements to the performance of the whole Mail product, impacting both paid and free tiers.

For one, the company continues to iterate on the new Redux architecture that the company introduced when it announced its rebuild last year.

Among the changes that are now in place, Yahoo says that there is now a 50 percent reduction in JavaScript exceptions; and a 20 percent reduction in overall API failures, including 20 percent when checking for new emails, 30 percent when reading email messages, and 20 percent when sending emails. Page load performance is up by 10 percent, and frame rendering by 40 percent — numbers that may not really be understood in any practical way by users, but inevitably make the Yahoo Mail experience much smoother.

In terms of new features, there are several areas where Yahoo Mail is adding more bells and whistles that focus on personalisation.

Yahoo Mail said that photo themes — the ability to add new backgrounds behind the actual interface of the otherwise relatively-vanilla mail service — have been one of the most consistently-requested features for the product.

So building on the previous ability to change the color of your background, now you can also add photos (illustrated in the GIF above). Given the existence of Flickr in the Yahoo stable, and the way that Yahoo has been using imagery in other products like its Weather app, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long to get this one off the ground.

Another new feature is tighter and better integration with your calendar.

Specifically, now Yahoo Mail will let users create and send calendar invites directly from within the mail service. This will also mean that users can now short-cut by accepting invites (or rejecting) without even opening the mail itself. Users of Gmail may know this feature well, and again it’s a welcome and needed (and overdue) addition to the Yahoo web mail service.

Finally, Yahoo Mail is adding some more pizzaz to your out of office responders.

I can’t help but think of The Office and other TV shows and films that parody the boring monotony of desk work when I hear about improvements like these: features that make very mundane things — like OOO responders — more “fun”. Still! Having been the recipient of many a “zany” OOO note, I know that people do love to play around with these, so here’s to the crazy ones.

You can now add GIFs and custom stationery so that your autoreplies stand out a little bit more.

We’ll update this post when and if we get more user numbers from the company.

Morning Brew is a daily business briefing built for millennials

What’s the best way to stay up to date on things happening within your industry? Seasoned finance professionals read the Wall Street Journal. Anyone who wants to work in politics reads The Washington Post. In Silicon Valley we have industry-specific news sites like TechCrunch supplemented by Hacker News and others.

But what about young business professionals who either don’t plan on staying in one industry their whole life or just want to stay up to date on the broader business/tech/startups/politics world?

Morning Brew is a daily newsletter designed for young business professionals. Each morning email has a stock market recap, a few short briefs on the most important business news of the day and a small section with lifestyle content. The result is the perfect mix of Wall Street essentials (like market analysis) and tech news (like a deep dive on Y Combinator).

The newsletter, which now has just under 200,000 total subscribers, was founded by Alex Lieberman and Austin Rief in 2015 when they were students at the University of Michigan.

“We worked with more than 75 students to help them prepare for interviews and internships and we’d always ask the question, “How do you keep up with the business world?” It was like every student had rehearsed their answers together beforehand, saying something to the effect of “I read the WSJ…and I read it because it’s a prerequisite to say you’re well-read in business and it’s what my parents do, but it’s dense, dry, and too long to read cover-to-cover,” explained the duo.

So Morning Brew was born. While initially college-focused, that segment has shrunk to 30% of their total audience with the average reader now 28-years-old working in finance, tech, or consulting. Of course there’s nothing stopping an older reader from signing up, and if anything sites like Axios have shown that even non-millennials may now prefer short bullet-point briefings over traditional long-form reporting.

But business-minded millennials are definitely the long-term focus of Morning Brew – and for good reason. The segment is extremely sought after in the advertising world, which has helped the startup monetize early. So far they’ve hosted sponsored native content from brands like Discover Card, Casper and Duke University. The diversity of sponsors shows just how many different industries are trying to reach the demographic.

Similar to other newsletter businesses like theSkimm, Morning Brew has mainly relied on word of mouth referrals and an ambassador program of 700+ students to drive new signups. Total subscribers are nearing 200,000 with a daily open rate hovering around 50%, which for reference is at least double most other popular industry newsletters.

The long term goal is to grow the newsletter into a brand that can touch all aspects of a young professional’s life, including networking. The site is launching a monthly event series this summer to bring together millennials to network and watch panel discussions, which should provide the off-line community building that has proved successful for other media brands.

The startup has raised $750,000 in seed funding from notable media execs including Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, and is targeting a Series A in 2019.

AMP for email is a terrible idea

 Google just announced a plan to “modernize” email, allowing “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences.” Does that sound like a terrible idea to anyone else? It sure sounds like a terrible idea to me, and not only that, but an idea borne out of competitive pressure and existing leverage rather than user needs. Not good, Google. Send to trash. Read More

Mixmax raises $10.35M to improve email

 Hundred of startups have tried to kill it, but email is still alive and well. That doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon, though. Mixmax, a startup that aims to make email more useful for businesses, today announced that it has raised a $10.35 million from Creandum’s Carl Fritjofsson and SaaStr’s Jason Lemkin. Previous investors Michael Dearing, Harrison Metal… Read More

Front raises $66 million to replace Microsoft Outlook

 Front is raising a $66 million Series B round led by Sequoia with DFJ and existing investors also participating. There are now 2,500 companies using Front to manage shared inboxes and collaborate. The startup now wants to go one step further and become the definitive email product. “I decided that I wanted to raise money, I scheduled 11 partner meetings over a single week,”… Read More

Email Communication Etiquette for Product Managers

How should product managers use email?

How should product managers use email?
Image Credit: William Iven

Note: this post was written by Jackie

Being able to communicate with coworkers and clients face-to-face is the best way to get your message across, but it is also time consuming. When there is a lot to get done during the day, email communication is often the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective way of getting in contact. Email is a good way of communicating with your customers, but as a product manager you need to be clear and concise with what you need to say.

Be Professional At All Times

As a product manager, you are in charge of both a brand and an image. You are also responsible for the image of your company. With this career you are investing in yourself and your company, so your written correspondence needs to convey this. You may have colleagues, clients and employees that are friends, but work email is only for work discussions. Steer clear of forwarding jokes, chain emails, and anything that isn’t directly linked to your work and your management. It is a lot easier with email for things to be misconstrued if you are trying to inject a level of humor into your emails. Being courteous and professional is important at all times.

Product Designs and Plans

Project managers have a lot of information to communicate, and this needs to be done in a clear way. When you are dealing with product designs, it is always a good idea to have good mockups from the start, to show the clear vision right from the start. All dimensions and measurements need to be given in every email, so that there is never any error made regarding these. If you are emailing out a plan, give a firm brief, instructions and a timescale. With this information, you are far more likely to get things done in the way that you have envisioned.

Communicating Tasks

When you are giving instructions and communicating tasks to colleagues and employees, it is a good idea to number them in order of importance and present them in a list format, rather than in the main paragraph of an email. Make sure that each task is allocated to a specific person, or team. You should also give a deadline for every task, so that it is clear when you are expecting the work to be done by.

Formality of Emails

Unless your email contact tells you that you can address them by their first name, always use a high level of formality. Address your contact as Dear Mr. Jones, Dear Mrs. Smith etc. You should be able to judge from later communication whether you can be a little more relaxed. Use a standard black font in emails, such as Times New Roman, or Arial. Using Comic Sans or handwriting fonts are not very businesslike. Steer clear of any unusual formatting too, as this can be confusing.

What All Of This Means For You

Email is a very effective way for product managers to communicate. It is important when you are doing so that you are transparent with the information that you are giving and professional.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How much email is too much email for a product manager?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it, Amazon is a very big company that has done a lot of things correctly. We all know that we can visit their web site, pick out something that we want and almost magically it’s going to show up at our door in just a few days. All of this success has put some pressure on the Amazon product managers. They need to keep finding ways to allow the company to keep growing. As product managers we all know what this means – new products. Recently the Amazon product managers decided to expand their product development definition and introduced a new product that was yanked off the market after only a couple of days. What went wrong?

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