Google Release Gmail Themes

20 11 2008

Google’s Gmail platform is constantly being updated. This is not surprising when you learn that Google has kept the service in Beta since its launch in 2004. Recently we’ve seen bigger changes, mainly through their labs add-ons, such as Google Goggles and Third-Party Widgets, like Remember The Milk.

However, one thing has always stayed the same; The colour scheme.

Gmail has stayed in line with Google’s minimal white background with small splahes of colour here and there, until now. Google have just announced the option to theme your inbox, in a similar way to your iGoogle page.

skins_gridFor larger, more expansive screenshots, have a look at Lifehacker’s Screenshot Tour.

Google wanted to give users the ability to customise their inbox, but not through just a simple change of colour. Annie Chen, Gmail engineer, explains:

We wanted to go beyond simple color customization, so out of the 30 odd themes we’re launching today, there’s a shiny theme with chrome styling, another one that turns your inbox into a retro notepad, nature themes that change scenery over time, weather driven themes that can rain on your mailbox, and fun characters to keep you in good company.

Previously, fans of customising their Gmail view would have to use a Firefox plugin like Stylish, a styles manager for web apps. However, the proble with that was it was only set for use on one computer at a time. Gmail’s themes happily eliminate this problem.

Google are so committed to the themes that they have changed their logo for some of them, as you can see above, usually a big marketing no-no. However, with Google’s brand being so powerful, I suppose they can bank on just their name and no necessarily their branding. Chen even goes on to demonstrate Google’s much-loved sense of humour:

There’s even an old school ascii theme (Terminal) which was the result of a bet between two engineers — it’s not exactly practical, but it’s great for testing out your geek cred.

Personally I think the themes are a great way for Google to once again set themselves apart from rivals such as AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo, like they have done in the past with storage space, AJAX GUI and mail fetching. It will help users feel like they are getting a service that stands out from the crowd and endear themselves to the Google brand even more, with or without the correct logo.

Me? I’m using Nightshade.

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