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Death and taxes may be the most famous of life’s certainties, but you can also always count on Google to kill off another service or feature. It’s often something fiercely beloved or downright useful, too. (No, I’m still not over losing Google Reader.) And unfortunately, the Grim Reaper has appeared once again. This time the scythe is coming for one of the company’s oldest features—Gmail’s basic HTML view. In January 2024, that simple interface heads for the great beyond.
According to The Verge, the impending death was announced quietly in a Google help page around mid-September.
For many, this news may seem like a no-brainer—most people are familiar with the standard view, which is the default when you log into Gmail through the web. It’s full featured, with support for modern fonts, a customizable inbox, integrated chat features, rich text formatting, and more. Meanwhile, the basic HTML view is exactly as described—it looks like something from 2005 and behaves like it, too. All you can really do is read your email (and on mobile web, you’d better hope there’s a properly formatted text version, because it doesn’t render fancier formats well).
But that simplicity is what made the basic HTML view so perfect. Because it takes so little data to access, you could still access Gmail with a bad internet connection or while on an ancient device. Or both. More than one member of the PCWorld staff uses the basic HTML view—some during trade shows or conventions, others wherever local reception is bad. Even if service crawls along at the equivalent of 2G or slower speeds, you’re not shut out of your inbox. Starting next year, though, we’re all out of luck.
While this development is disappointing, it’s not surprising. Google’s been pushing multiple products and projects onto the chopping block (and into the graveyard) as of late. Google Domains is gone, as is the Pixel Pass program (much to the ire of subscribers who never got their promised phone upgrade). It’s a stark contrast with Microsoft, which not only gives reprieves to venerable apps once marked for retirement, but decides to soup them up, too.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering software, PC building, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.