Google is set to introduce a new feature for Gmail users in the coming week that sorts emails based on how important they are to the reader, called "Priority Inbox".
Priority Inbox is based on an overhaul of the existing Gmail filter that will sort mail into two new categories marked "important and unread" and "everything else".
Users can still star messages and conversations they intend to come back to later.
Doug Aberdeen, software engineer with Google, said in a blog post today that Priority Inbox is a new way to manage the information overload.
"It's time consuming to figure out what needs to be read and what needs a reply. Today, we're happy to introduce Priority Inbox — an experimental new way of taking on information overload in Gmail," Aberdeen said in the post.
Priority Inbox has the ability to "learn" over time — prioritising emails based on what a user reads, replies to and deletes.
Users can also mark messages and conversations as more or less important if the Gmail filter gets it wrong.
Google's decision to tackle the information overload problem follows comments made on the topic by a panel on the future of email earlier this month.
Genevieve Bell, Intel director, interaction and experience research, said that email costs time and mental attention to clear.
"With people spending three hours a day doing email, they also don't have the feeling that they're really working," she said.
Alistair Rennie, IBM general manager Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal, said that email needed a transformation, bringing context into a crowded inbox to help users cope.
"What's important to me first thing Monday morning is going to be different to Friday night," he said, adding that people needed to be able to set account profiles and time profiles, making their inbox tuneable and trustable.