Don't Like Gmail's Thread System? Google Now Lets You Turn It Off

Threaded conversations on Gmail: you either loved it or hated it, but now you have a choice. Google has announced it will start letting users choose between the current, threaded “conversation” view, which groups messages with the same subject in a user’s inbox, and a more traditional style in-box which will just display incoming emails in the order they were received. The change is a concession from Google on a distinguishing feature of a trademark service. It also forces the company to do something it’s not known to love, deliver users a “traditional” service, just like everyone else.

Since the launch of Gmail in 2004, the feature has become almost as ubiquitous as the term “google” itself, becoming as much a verb or noun in the language of Internet users. But it also became the center of much debate as Outlook and AOL converts struggled to find comfort in the feature’s sorting system that was intended to de-clutter inboxes by grouping messages together.

In a company blog post announcing the move, Google engineer Doug Chen said the threaded email is “perhaps Gmail’s most hotly debated feature,” and compared it to the eternal debate over cilantro, “You either love it – and, like me, enjoy the nice citrusy, herbal finish it gives to everything from salsa to curry – or you hate it.”

Indeed, many users hated the feature, complaining the grouping system made it easy to overlook messages and citing Google for sometimes mistakenly group unrelated messages together. With the new option, they’ll be able to view all messages separately, just like in other e-mail services.

Google will begin to roll out the new option over the next few days. Making the change is as simple as going to the “Conversation View” section on the main Settings page, selecting the option to turn threading off, and saving the changes.

The team at Google remains threading die-hards though, telling users that, “if you change your mind, you can always go back.” The company also wants to hear from users, and so do we.

Will you make the change?

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