Gmail Gets an Algorithmic Mail Sorter

Google is reaching out to help those who just don’t have the time to wade through hundreds of emails each day.

The company unveiled Priority Inbox, an application that aims to automatically identify important incoming messages and separate them from more general, tedious emails.

“It’s about time,” Scott Steinberg, president and CEO of Digital Trends, told TechNewsWorld. “The vast majority of our emails are not pressing concerns. It shouldn’t be difficult to prioritize these.”

Not Rocket Science

Users who click the priority inbox navigation link on the side of their mail will now see messages grouped in three sections: important and unread; starred; and everything else.

Gmail automatically filters incoming email into the important and unread or everything else category while the starred category is reserved for messages that have been flagged for future reference.

“They are using keyword-based algorithms,” Steinberg said. “It shouldn’t be tremendously difficult to prioritize. For too long, we’ve been operating on a manual system. Today’s working professional has less time but is bombarded [by low-priority emails].”

The algorithm is based on a variety of criteria. Contacts you frequently email and message threads that you typically open are assumed to be a top priority. Messages can be flagged as important or marked as unimportant to help Priority Inbox learn and improve over time.

“This could be a major milestone in the evolution of communications,” Steinberg said. “The primitive email hasn’t evolved. For time-strapped professionals, any effort is a boon.”

Another Opening for Spammers?

The application will be a “significant time saver” for business professionals, Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“It certainly will make Gmail a more effective business tool,” he said.

However, spammers could learn who has the Priority Inbox and could send spam email with high-priority status, Enderle cautioned, thus slowing down the efficiencies of business workers who rely on the system.

Ultimately, the average business user who receives more than 200 emails per day could probably save up to an hour a day using the Priority Inbox application, said Steinberg. That would help workers focus their time on messages that need their attention immediately.

Selecting the “important” classification will ultimately help workers get their jobs done quickly, he said.

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