I don’t know exactly when it happened, but gmail changed their inbox script in a very irritating way. I think it was at least six months ago, maybe a year. I have my gmail inbox set as my home page. This used to work well. I could be working on other things (such as my writing) and open other tabs, like wikipedia, Google search, etc. and that Inbox tab would always show me when I got a new email. The icon for the tab would show the number of unread emails in my inbox and that number would change as I worked on other things. Similarly, if I didn’t have any other tabs open, just my inbox, the new emails would show up in my inbox in bold type as soon as they were received at the server.
Then the change. Now gmail does not push the email to my inbox unless I am active on that page. If I am busy with some native application and the gmail window (or the entire browser) is not being used, the new email is not pushed to the screen. The tab doesn’t show any unread emails that have not yet been downloaded. I have to click on the gmail page with my mouse to get the new emails to come. In effect, I have to ask if I have any new emails. This is really irritating. I want to know when I have a new email without asking. I don’t get an overwhelming number as I used to when I was working full time. I can deal with them as they arrive, usually, and generally want to do so.
In addition to the fact that I am not notified of new emails on a timely basis, there is another problem, one that is at least as irritating. Suppose I have read all my emails and archived or deleted all of them except for the reminder one from my calendar that says to feed the cat. I leave that in my inbox because I haven’t yet fed the cat and want to keep the reminder where I will see it. In reality, I don’t have such a reminder because my cat is quite capable of letting me know when he needs to be fed, but stay with me here. It’s just an example. So I’m busy for a while with native applications but leave the inbox visible in my browser. Finally I feed the cat. When I return to my computer the screen shows only one email – the reminder to feed the cat. Now that I don’t need it, I click the box for that email and then the trash can icon to delete it. No problem, right?
Wrong! I have just deleted a brand new unread email. Why? Because gmail has not been pushing new emails to my inbox, it is sitting on the server waiting for me to ask for it. It seems that gmail somehow registers the fact that I clicked on my screen and sends me the new email before it registers the fact that I clicked on the first box. Then it understands the fact I clicked the first box and then the delete icon and deletes the first email, which is the one it just sent and which I haven’t read. It is deleted without ever having appeared on the screen. The only clue to me that this has happened is that I look at my screen and the reminder to feed the cat is still there. If I’m not paying that much attention I may think my click just didn’t register somehow and delete it “again.” I could miss that new email altogether, not even realizing there was one. Now that I’m aware of the issue I know to check my trash folder when this happens, but it shouldn’t happen at all. Other times it’s not that dire, but I click on an earlier email showing on the screen to read it and instead it feeds me a new one I didn’t know about. It’s not exactly a disaster, but it is unnecessarily irritating.
Obviously this new method lightens the load on gmail’s servers, since it only has to process my new email when I ask for it, instead of constantly, but that rather defeats the whole purpose of instant communication, which is what email is all about. I don’t text, but it’s the same thing. How would you feel if your phone only showed you texts if you went to a texting inbox instead of pushing them to your phone when sent? This is a major fail, in my opinion.