Last night, Google unveiled something called "Gmail Labs." It can be
found under your Settings tab in Gmail. Of course, typically, this will roll out gradually to
users, so you may not see it, though it went live at 6 PM PDT Thursday
night, so most should have it by now.
Gmail Labs is a way for us to take lots of the ideas we wouldn't normally pick and let you all (who use Gmail) decide whether they're good or not. When you sign in, you'll see a new page in Settings called Labs. It has a list of experimental new features, and you can enable or disable each one. Some of the popular ones will become core parts of the product, and we'll eventually retire the ones that don't get much use. We've put feedback links in there, too, so you can discuss a feature with other users and the engineer(s) who wrote it.
The idea behind Labs is that any engineer can go to lunch, come up with a cool idea, code it up, and ship it as a Labs feature. To tens of millions of users. No design reviews, no product analysis, and to be honest, not that much testing. Some of the Labs features will occasionally break. (There's an escape hatch.)
Thanks for the escape hatch, for one. There are a few funny ones, such as the "Snake" game and the "Hide Unread Email Counts." There's also one for email addicts that "lets you take a break from email and chat by blocking the screen for fifteen minutes and making you invisible in chat." Take a look at let us know the ones you like (or don't like).