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Behind the Scenes at Gmail Labs

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Google's Gmail Labs is constantly developing new features and applications, and while many of the projects and releases may appear to be casual or random, the Lab's Todd Jackson says there is a method to the madness. "Labs is for Gmail to experiment with new features when we're not really sure if they'll be a hit," Jackson says. "It's a place where we can throw stuff out there, see what sticks."

Launched last June, Gmail Labs has added about one new Lab feature per week, with ideas coming from individual engineers and developers in the company, instead of from corporate offices as part of a business plan. Some Lab applications, such as Tasks and Forgotten Email Attachment, are designed to be useful to Gmail users, while others are designed for fun and novelty. So far, no applications have graduated from the Lab section in Gmail and become a standard email tool, but Jackson says some could be released soon. "The criteria for release is really a collection of things," he says. "Primarily we look at user feedback, including how many users have installed the Lab and how many people continue to use it."

Jackson says because all Google employees use Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs, bugs and problems are usually caught well before an application reaches the consumer. He says the added pressure of knowing that coworkers are relying on the stability of the product is a major motivator to ensure the product is strong.

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