Google: Gmail to get more powerful search

Todd Jackson at SXSWi
Todd Jackson at SXSWi

Gmail users will have noticed that the search in mail is nowhere near as powerful as Google's web search, but that's set to change with a large project that Google is currently working on.

In an exclusive interview with TechRadar at South by South West Interactive (SXSWi), Todd Jackson, Product Manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, said improvements to Gmail search are coming.

"Gmail works on pretty much exact string matching," says Jackson. "There's an incredible amount of knowledge that's baked into Google web search and we're trying to incorporate more and more of that into Gmail.

"So you will see improvement in that area in the future. It's one of the bigger back-end projects that we're working on right now."

Does this mean that we'll see suggestions such as 'did you mean?'

"Similar. You have to make it make sense in a mail context," Jackson explains. "We refer to this as 'stemming' – certain terms that are the stem of a longer term. It's a basic property of web search. And things like synonyms and bigrams and anagrams – all that stuff we want to work well in Gmail. It doesn't work yet, but it's something we are working on."

Jackson refused to be drawn on a launch date, saying that Google tries not to be too forward-looking with what it announces.

"This is because of the fits and starts that projects often have. Projects happen organically at Google and they are very engineering driven, and sometimes they start and stop and resume later. And we also don't like to tease users – we want to announce it to users at the moment that it's ready for them to use it."

Global Editor-in-Chief

After watching War Games and Tron more times that is healthy, Paul (Twitter, Google+) took his first steps online via a BBC Micro and acoustic coupler back in 1985, and has been finding excuses to spend the day online ever since. This includes roles editing .net magazine, launching the Official Windows Magazine, and now as Global EiC of TechRadar.