Google is quietly killing off another useful feature

This week we learned that Google is killing off Gmail’s Basic HTML view. As reported by TechCrunch, starting in January, 2024, Google will disable the stripped down HTML version of the Gmail web app and mobile web app. Ah, another Google feature bites the dust. 

Gmail users who regularly use the Basic HTML view are seemingly receiving an email notification, and one poster on Hacker News reports that Google says: “We’re writing to let you know that the Gmail Basic HTML view for desktop web and mobile web will be disabled starting early January 2024. The Gmail Basic HTML views are previous versions of Gmail that were replaced by their modern successors 10+ years ago and do not include full Gmail feature functionality.” 

This news is confirmed by Gmail’s support doc, which now has a note that reads, “Important: You can display Gmail on your browser in Basic HTML view until January 2024. After this date, Gmail automatically changes to Standard view.”

It’s sad to see Google kill off the HTML option. Not only is it a great throwback to the early days of Gmail, but its stripped down and functional interface was perfect for slow connections. Sure, cellular data speeds are getting better everywhere, but there are still plenty of remote locations around the world where a lightweight email client is much nicer to use than the regular, fully-featured Gmail monstrosity. 

But that fully-featured monstrosity is what Google wants people to rely on. Some of the features that the Basic HTML view lacks, for example, are: Chat, spell check, keyboard shortcuts, contact management, search filters, automatic filtering into Primary, Promotions, and Social inboxes, and rich text formatting—to say nothing of the latest AI features. We get that HTML is stripped down, but that is exactly the point. Sometimes you just want to send and receive emails—no bells and whistles necessary. 

Unfortunately, unless Google announces some kind of replacement low-speed connectivity feature, the best way to check your Gmail account over a slow connection will be to use the IMAP protocol and a dedicated email app. Your smartphone definitely comes with a solid email app, but if you want to set things up on a computer, Thunderbird suits the old-school tech vibe. Since IMAP is an almost 40-year-old email protocol, this setup will also lack almost every modern Gmail feature, but at least you’ll be able to check your emails when you only have a single bar of bad signal. 

News like this is why Google has a well-deserved reputation for killing off products and features. 

Just this year, Google has axed domain registrar Google Domains, web analytics tool Google Optimize, Google Cloud IoT Core, Google Album Archive, YouTube Stories, Grasshopper, Google Assistant’s Conversational Actions, Google Currents, the standalone Street View app, smart clothing tag Jacquard, Google Code Competitions, Google Stadia, and the Google OnHub line of routers. Sometimes it seems like no Google product is safe.

So, if you love the Gmail Basic HTML view, you’ve got a few short months to keep using it. After that, it’s off to the tech graveyard in the clouds. It seems unlikely that there will be enough user uproar to spare it. After all, it was replaced more than a decade ago.