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  • Google is discontinuing Gmail's Basic HTML view in January 2024, favoring the more feature-rich Standard view for all users.
  • The Basic HTML view was popular for its streamlined and quicker experience, especially for users with slower internet connections or older devices.
  • The discontinuation raises concerns about accessibility, as some users rely on the Basic HTML view for its user-friendly interface and compatibility with older systems.

As technological advancements continue to reshape our online experience, we move further away from the early era of the internet. Google, in particular, has a penchant for killing things that get a little long in the tooth, always looking toward the next moonshot that just might catch on. Now, the company has announced that it is discontinuing the Basic HTML view for Gmail early next year.

Reported on YCombinator and further detailed in a TenFourFox Development article dated September 19, Gmail's Basic HTML view for unsupported browsers is being deprecated in January 2024. After that date, Gmail will only load in Standard view on desktop and the mobile web, regardless of your browser or previous settings.

Source: Google

Gmail's Basic HTML mode, which has until now provided access to a previous version of Gmail that had since been replaced by more modern successors over a decade ago, was particularly favored for its streamlined and quicker experience in comparison to the more feature-rich versions of Gmail. The article on TenFourFox Development highlighted that there are already reports of difficulties in setting the Basic HTML mode, even before the code's formal deprecation date.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Basic HTML view is a simplified version of the standard Gmail interface, designed to be faster and more accessible, especially on slower internet connections and older web browsers. It provides essential email functionality, allowing users to send, receive, and organize their emails, but lacks many features and enhancements found in the full Gmail experience.

Accessibility issues are at the forefront of the discussions, as several users, especially those reliant on screen readers, slower connections, older devices, or browsers like TenFourFox, have found the Basic HTML version to be a more user-friendly option. The impending discontinuation raises questions about whether Gmail’s standard interface will meet the top-tier accessibility compatibility standards that some users require and how it will affect those using older or limited systems.

Gmail's Basic HTML view is a blast from the past that will soon go extinct.

Beyond the immediate user experience and accessibility concerns, the demise of the Basic HTML view sheds light on broader implications. Some users criticize tech companies for not optimizing web applications for speed and efficiency, citing that advancements in computing power should ideally result in faster-loading apps and websites. This is juxtaposed with the viewpoint presented in the TenFourFox Development article, which suggests that Google might be intentionally phasing out users unlikely to be monetized because they do not use the full suite of Google’s products and services.

While discussions about Gmail limiting user options and taking control continue, others argue that this move is more likely to be a strategic decision by Google to maintain and update fewer versions of the platform. The possibility of third-party developers creating alternatives or replacements for the Basic HTML mode remains a hope, but we wouldn't hold our breath.