Why the New Gmail Will Be Fantastic, in One Four-Letter Word

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 29 2013 2:08 PM

Why the New Gmail Will Be Fantastic, in One Four-Letter Word

Bacn
Bacn is like bacon, but less delicious.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bacn.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

It’s a dumb word. I’m not sure it’s really even a word. But it’s the best word we’ve got for one of modern life’s more soul-sucking minor inconveniences. Bacn is all the email you get from companies, products, groups, and social networks you signed up for in some moment of weakness and now must pay for by hitting the “delete” button 27 times every time you open your inbox. It’s not spam, because you signed up for it. But in many ways it’s worse, because it doesn’t get caught by your spam filter.

Advertisement

Until now. Google today announced its latest revamp of Gmail, which will automatically sort your messages into as many as five categories:

  • Primary
  • Social
  • Promotions
  • Updates
  • Forums

In case the value of this feature isn’t immediately clear, let me take the liberty of renaming those five categories:

  • Primary
  • Bacn
  • Bacn
  • Bacn
  • Bacn

They’re sorted by tabs, so when you click on the “Primary” tab, all the bacn should disappear. It won’t be gone, just hidden. Better yet, it will be sorted so that you can quickly find it if you end up needing it. Or zap it all at once while cackling madly.

Google isn’t the first to try this approach. Mobile apps like Mailbox do something similar, and they do it well. Whether Gmail succeeds in keeping your “primary” inbox full of only the messages you actually care about remains to be seen. But I wouldn’t bet against Google in the long term. Its computers already know a lot about you and your habits. Its machine-learning algorithms are some of the best around. And as The Verge’s Casey Newton notes, it has been quietly working on this problem for a while now with its optional “Priority Inbox” and a “Smart Labels” project in Gmail Labs.

Sure, there have long been apps out there that let you unsubscribe from mailing lists en masse, and Gmail and other major email programs have always provided the option of manually setting up filters. And of course there’s always the good old “unsubscribe” button. Returning from a vacation off the grid last year, I was so infuriated by the bacn that had piled up that I went on an epic “unsubscribe” binge and found it cathartic. But less than a year later, despite my best intentions, my inbox has become inundated with fat once again. I’m counting on the new Gmail to solve this problem for good.

Not to mention, if the ad below is accurate, I can also look forward to exchanging my Google+ knitting circle for a pair of new shoes and a hot date.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.