Software

Basic HTML mode in Gmail is going the way of the dodo

Soon it won’t be possible to load Gmail natively without all the bells and whistles.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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Google is axing one of Gmail’s oldest features—the ability to view an inbox in basic HTML.

Google’s Help Center now states that basic HTML view will be unavailable beginning in January 2024, after which Gmail “automatically changes to standard view.” Attempts to access the basic HTML view now also prompt users with a page that asks if they “really want” to use it, mentioning it is designed for “slower connections and legacy browsers.”

The basic HTML mode is a simplified view of the Gmail service that lacks features like chat, spell check, keyboard shortcuts, rich text formatting, custom “from” addresses, and some contact management features. By The Register’s measure, basic HTML takes 1,200 milliseconds to load, whereas the standard view takes 700 milliseconds, although the standard view continued to load new page elements for almost another minute.

While there is always an associated cost with maintaining legacy features, Google’s deprecation of basic HTML has stirred some criticism. The mode has no ads and, as The Register reported, is commonly used by people with blindness and other visual disabilities as an easier way to run screen-reading software. Some users with slow connections might also appreciate not having to load all the bells and whistles in the standard view.

However, the switch doesn’t lock users into only accessing their email via the standard view. That’s because like almost all email services, Gmail supports POP3 and IMAP, protocols that allow users to simply use a third-party email client to access and send messages.

Google spokesman Ross Richendrfer confirmed the end of Basic HTML view to IT Brew via email.

“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,” Richendrfer wrote.

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.