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Google’s New GMail API Aim to Upgrade from the 80s

July 15, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Google, while known all over the world for its search engine is also known for Android and Docs, but one of its most recognizable products is GMail. Thanks to its massive capabilities to sort, organize, and allow querying of your emails, whether you have ten or ten thousand GMail has become a favorite for many.  But you may notice the time it takes to manage all that mail, in Gmail and other third-party mail applications found in the Google Play Store.  The time it takes from hitting the magnifying glass with your desired tag or content inside to the moment you get your first results and can click to see if the thing you were looking for is inside an email from six months or six hours ago.

The issue is that: speed and efficiency, but not on our side, the user side.  No, the issue lies in the protocols and APIs that are used to get and shuffle through our email for us.  When you go to add an email to a computer or smartphone, you are probably greeted with a choice to set it up as an IMAP or POP account.  Those are the two protocols and codings for retrieving and querying mail.  IMAP, however is the focus of Google’s latest campaign to streamline a user’s experience, and to update the process of managing mail on the developer and software sides.  The IMAP system was originally used for mobile email applications and clients in 2007 (on the original iPhone for its native mail client) but how old is the system and what kind of load was it designed to handle initially?

Well, IMAP was originally released, not just for mobile things,, but for email services as a whole, in 1986.  Yeah, that 1986.  When email was like sending some sort of future-message and only the businessmen among businessmen had access to it.  It was built to cope with a hundred, maybe, if you never cleaned in (and let five years pass) a thousand emails.  But what about today’s inboxes, running off the same thing as the 80’s?  Tens of thousands, even into the hundreds of thousands (and you know who you are, people that don’t check email EVER or clean it all out EVER).  But what does Google have to do with this massive overtaxing of the system?  A bit.

Google, during I/O in late June, had announced many new APIs for developers to take advantage of in their applications for mobile and Chrome as well as their plugins for Chrome.  Google’s new Gmail APIs aim to shorten the time that you spend waiting for a result when you search your thousands-deep inbox by making the searches make sense.  The big strength that Google has is searching and its optimization, so that’s what they’re employing with their new APIs, so the search can be a sentence or actual request, and the search can return the useful and filter the useless, quicker than the days of old (IMAP).  The light now falls to shine on the developers.  The developers will have to implement and upgrade their applications and services to work in tandem with these new APIs, and be sure that Google will use them to make Gmail a genius when it gets updated to Material Design in Android L this fall (and if they don’t many will be crying foul).  Ready to ask your inbox a question and have it show you your mail?