Google conversation view: Why would you disable it?

Turn off conversation view in Gmail? Perish the thought!
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

In an extended cilantro metaphor of a blog post, Google announced today that it would allow users to disable what, in my opinion, is the single best feature of Gmail and one of the most touted new features of Outlook 2010: Conversation view.

As Gmail Technical Lead, Wiltse Carpenter, explains,

The way Gmail organizes mail into conversations is like cilantro. You either love it -- and, like me, enjoy the nice citrusy, herbal finish it gives to everything from salsa to curry -- or you hate it...So just like you can order your baja fish tacos without cilantro, you can now get Gmail served up sans conversation view. Go to the main Settings page, look for the “Conversation View” section, select the option to turn it off, and save changes.

Carpenter points to community requests for the feature to be optional and I have to hand it to Google for, as one poster says, "giv[ing] someone the option to turn off your great idea."

This sounds to me, however, like it is really about attracting enterprise-types who have become accustomed to Outlook and Exchange, where a conversation view only became available with the launch of Outlook 2010. Conversation view, for non-Gmail users, is a real switch, particularly 50-somethings who still have BlackBerries and live by Outlook. By making the threaded emails optional, Google can now allow users to come closer to the feel of their traditional mail client or webmail view of choice.

I'm with Carpenter on this one (and I really love cilantro):

...my fondness for cilantro pales in comparison to my love for Gmail’s conversation view, or message threading. I haven’t had to wade through multiple messages to follow a conversation in years.

Apparently there are enough people that Google is trying to woo to Premier Apps that it was worth their development time and the threat to a feature that I consider an integral part of the Gmail brand to make it worth the change. I've been using Gmail for many years and the recent need to begin using both a BlackBerry and Outlook 2007 for a particular client has made me love threaded conversations even more than I already did. But that's me. My garden was overrun by cilantro this year because I planted so much of it.

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