When Google announced Gmail on April 1, 2004, people thought it was a joke. What company in their right mind would offer users 1 GB of email for free? Fast forward to today and we're not being the least bit hyperbolic when we say that Gmail has become an essential part of our lives. Not only does the threaded conversations UI make email easier to use, but the attitude that Google insists you have with email, that you should never delete a single message, completely changes your relationship with data.
Today Google is announcing that they're making Gmail even better. Gmail users will now be able to search for text that’s inside their attachements. Here's a hypothetical situation: Your friend forwards you a PDF of their itinerary to you so you can pick them up from the airport. You want to meet them at the gate, but you have no idea which airline they're flying. Search for your friend's trip, load up the PDF, and boom, there it is. Google being Google, this feature will work everywhere. In a browser, in the Gmail app, you get the idea.
Privacy nuts are probably going to go nuts and insist that Google is reading your sensitive documents, but come on now, let's be serious. What's a DOC file or a PDF file or a PPT file when you really think about it? Just strings of text wrapped in markup language. You, the user, input a query, that query gets converted into a string, and all Google's servers do is match your input string to the strings that it has in their database. Simple as that.
Looking ahead, what else does Google have in store for Gmail? The company is testing a feature whereby your messages are searched whenever you do a Google search. In other words, when you go to Google.com and type in “dog”, you'll see the top 10 websites about dogs, but in the right hand side you'll also see all the emails you have that contain the word “dog”.
They're just trying to make things that much faster.