Gmail's new delete button

23 January, 2006

Gmail has rolled out a delete button, so that users can now easily delete their mail instead of just archiving it (because despite what some people think, you could actually delete your mail before via the drop-down box of actions).

This has come after a pretty long period of complaining by Gmail users, and the addition has been widely heralded as a good one. I have one message to those people: you don’t understand Gmail.

Honestly, if you think you needed a “delete” button (or were using the Greasemonkey extension), you’ve completely misunderstood not only the Gmail interface but also the new experience the team has tried to give you. No exceptions. If you disagree with this, and also think that, like someone in the betanews comments, Now If they will get rid of the Archive thing and star thing for something better it would be even better, you should stop using Gmail for web-based mail. Seriously. Or if you do want to keep using it because of the 2GB space, start using a desktop POP client like Thunderbird. That way you’ll be completely immured from what Google are trying to do, and you can go back to your 1995 interface.

If this isn’t obviously apparent to you, just take a moment to actually read that part of the Gmail help explaining delete. For a start, it’s called “I’m not sure if I should archive or delete” – bingo. Such equivocation is totally unnecessary for all except the most pedantically set-in-their-ways; “archive” is enough. The text of the help even goes on to encourage you to use “archive” rather than “delete”.

I feel so, so sorry for Gmail’s developers.

See other posts tagged with general and all posts made in January 2006.


23 January, 2006 at 09:36

I agree entirely, next they’ll want folders…

23 January, 2006 at 17:23


24 January, 2006 at 15:32

Out of all the people on the Interweb, there have to be a few who don’t, can’t or won’t entertain a mental model of email compatible with Gmail’s approach.

Spare a little pity for them, too… great new approaches may involve retraining time.

25 January, 2006 at 16:53

So you do understand Gmail’s philosophy, hugh?
Have you got 1.5 Gig of mails and are afraid of running out of space? I’m sure you don’t.
Do you really NEED to archive all your mails? Say…you archive even spam, hugh? You archive even one-line mails your friends send you telling they’re at work already? So then, man, let me tell you you’re stupid!
There’s no need to make use of Gmail’s space with useless stuff. You would say “what do you care?”. I do care. If something affects Gmail, it affects me, cause I rely pretty much on Gmail and if something goes wrong with Gmail, then it goes wrong with me.
You would say, yet, that Gmail won’t get any benefit from my saving space, but then again I would say “Man, you’re still so stupid! I don’t care if it’s indeed a benefit or not for Gmail. I don’t lose anything trying”.
So, know-it-all, somehow Gmail agreed to finally put the button up there. They could have discarded user’s requests. But they didn’t.

25 January, 2006 at 17:21

I know English isn’t your first language, but I seriously don’t know whether you’re agreeing with me or not.

25 January, 2006 at 17:24

Although a slight correction: I have 2.7GB of space in my Gmail account.

Additionally, I have 5,500 mails in my archive and another 1000 in my spam folder. This uses a total of 6% of my total space allocation.

30 January, 2006 at 17:16

Ah, actually I understand you now, your point actually being: “I don’t lose anything by trying to help Gmail save space”.

I’m not entirely sure there’s a logical reply to that.

Tom Heath
17 February, 2006 at 14:26

Hey Pip. Interesting post. I hear what you’re saying, but in the spirit of good debate I have to disagree 🙂 I use the Delete feature regularly (via the drop-down, incidentally) for a couple of reasons: 1) relevance and 2) privacy.

1) Gmail is great for receiving all those mailing list posts and announcements. Some of them I wanna keep for posterity, and having 2.7Gb to play with means I can just do that without having to think about it. However, some of them are totally transient and will have no relevance to me ever again once I’ve read them. If I wanna do something with the info in them I’ll store it in some other way. It’s this second type of message that I delete.

Despite what Google seems to think, powerful search of my email won’t solve my information management problems. It will help, but it won’t solve it. I see no point in keeping irrelevant mail just because I can, and risk polluting those email search results in the process.

2) Google already knows enough about me thanks very much. I’m prepared to give up a little bit of my privacy in return for access to loads of online storage, but anything I don’t particularly wanna keep I’d happily delete rather than contribute it to Google’s ever-growing profile of me. (Of course you could argue that the stuff I choose to keep is the stuff that makes the profile interesting, but that’s another issue. You could also question whether Google actually gets rid of the stuff that’s “Deleted Forever”, but worth a try I guess.)

At a general level, I think that Gmail is interesting mainly because of the amount of storage. The other features are pretty incidental IMHO, and can be achieved in a regular mail client by just having one big folder (called “Archive” perhaps?) where you drag everything you wanna keep, and a decent full text search over that. This is how I manage my highest volume non-Gmail mailboxes.

The real Gmail-seeded innovations should come with people building apps that backend to Gmail for storage via GmailFS, and with the integration of Gmail and GoogleTalk. (At last someone has realised that email and IM support roughly the same sorts of tasks). How many people will want Google archiving their IM chats as well as their email is a different question.