Google rolled out enhancements to Gmail Wednesday, including the ability to preview some Web links within messages and a new feature that lets Google Apps administrators view usage statistics of their Gmail users in the Analytics service.
The preview functionality makes it possible for Gmail users to see photos from Yahoo’s Flickr and Google’s Picasa photo management services, play back YouTube video clips and view ratings and other listing information from the Yelp business review site without having to navigate away from the message window.
Google intends to increase the number of elements that Gmail can preview in its e-mail messages and is eager to collect feedback on which other sites and services it should add.
Meanwhile, administrators of Education and Premier accounts of the Google Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite can now collect and view usage statistics of their Gmail users in the company’s Analytics Web monitoring service.
This extends the integration between the two services. Analytics users previously gained the ability to track the usage of the Docs and Sites components of Apps Premier and Education editions. Docs is a suite of office productivity applications, while Sites is a wiki-based service for creating Web sites.
In addition, Google gave Apps administrators more control over the format of their users’ names in Gmail addresses. Administrators can establish either a “first name-last name” format, or a “last name-first name” format. They can also give users the liberty of customizing the setting.
Also on Wednesday, Gmail was down for two to three hours for a small number of users, some of who reported on Twitter and discussion forums that they had trouble logging into their Gmail accounts.
A Google spokesman said the problems shouldn’t be characterized as an “outage” indicative of a larger issue. “It does appear that a very small number of users had some issues this morning,” he wrote. He declined to provide further details, saying the issue had been minor and dealt with in a routine way.