Tell HN: Goodbye HTML Gmail

To be (dis)continued:

"We’re writing to let you know that the Gmail Basic HTML view for desktop web and mobile web will be disabled starting early January 2024. The Gmail Basic HTML views are previous versions of Gmail that were replaced by their modern successors 10+ years ago and do not include full Gmail feature functionality."




On one hand this is not a big deal, on the other one this is a fallback option on a slow connection and no access to IMAP apps. Someone’s day will be ruined.


The vintage computing scene mainly.


An interesting point. I wonder what is the best self-hosted alternative is. There is a need for vintage web for vintage machines, and that includes email services.


The hobby vintage computing scene very rarely plays a part in important recovery or support situations.

I would hazard a guess that the number of real and important situations where a critical and irreplaceable legacy system requires access to *Gmail* is close to zero. These systems are unlikely to have access to the internet, and if you’re connecting an *unsupported browser* to a legacy webmail solution, you’re doing things very, very wrong.


> fallback option on a slow connection

And on mobile if you want to edit settings like filters, impossible to do without the html version


So what do you get when Gmail sends email to a non-Gmail address? A link to Google?


What in the world are you on about?


I don't really understand the motivation for this- its not like basic HTML emails is a difficult thing to support.

I’d highly recommend posteo for anyone reading this, wanting a privacy focused html-only email service.


This isn't about html content in emails, it's about the legacy non-SPA version of the Gmail web client.


It’s the only gmail version that’s not sloooowww and doesn’t eat many hundreds of megabytes to low-gigabytes of memory just for an email client.

This’ll be a good push to finally move everything to Fastmail.


I think they were referring to the email client itself being HTML, but it was worded a bit confusingly


Apparently, the saying, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain is true.


wow, they're not going to support the basic html view forever? terrible company. how else will I check my email in w3m?


why aren't you using mutt or pine?


Guess it's time to cut and run. I've been mirroring Gmail with Proton paid for a couple of years now. Don't use the HTML version, but might as well kick Google to the curb.


This is a tiny bit sad, honestly.


Those looking to jump ship and use a custom domain, I've been very happy with Migadu. I've set up a wildcard inbox system (really easy) such that every website gets its own address, cutting down on spam and unwanted automatic subscription noise.


they look cool but (e.g.) 20/100 sent messages a day for the micro/mini plan seems super low?


I thought so too because 364 days of the year I will average 0 sent but that one other day I might have a conversation and I don't want my messages to be blocked when I reach 21.

Thankfully they allow some margins and after that they just delay messages to the next day:

So micro seems like a pretty good deal that I'm now considering myself!


Being a current user of Migadu: I’m not sure what they’ve written there is actually correct. When I’ve gone over the outgoing message limit, I’ve received no warning, no 25% margin, and the messages were just dropped, not deferred. I just received an email telling me I had exceeded my account limits.


Do they do a good job of getting into the inbox and staying out of spam? That’s the main reason I stay on gmail, it’s so hard to find a provider with shared IPs that reliable land in the inbox.


I use a wildcard domain for this. Every site gets its own address. Each whatever@ gets a mailbox on the left side of the screen, which you can individual hide or turn off automatic fetching if you want. Keeps things clean and you don't have to worry about spam so much.


Never heard of them before! Pricing plan looks interesting.

Do they have a web client, or it's a bring your own client?

How "family friendly" is the actual usage experience (as opposed to nerd friendly; I'd need to convert my wife as well as myself:)

Thx muchly!


I'd say the web client doesn't get any simpler. I'm sure my parents could easily figure it out (they're not tech savvy).


mxroute is even better!


I just use iCloud for custom domain email.


Me too. After being on Gmail for the past decade, I finally made the switch to iCloud completely. It‘s been a smooth transition.


Seconding using Migadu here. They also provide an educational discount if you’re a current student


My domain provider used to offer free email as well, but not anymore (now they are charging like $5/month for that). Since I'm using apple devices, I gave iCloud+ a try: so far so good, it's just $1/month for email (with your own custom domain if you have one). Also, I find Hide My Email very handy and the 50GB of cloud storage doesn't hurt either.


great i love waiting for a web app to boot itself up to display a table of email headers


if I could just get google workspaces 'chat' on the mobile browser that would be amazing.


As an alternative to moving providers entirely, Gmail still works without using the browser interface. My iPhone and desktop email clients both handle multiple providers, where Gmail is just one of a few. In other words, you can change clients immediately to try it out, and still switch email hosts if you choose and like the client later.


Man it makes me feel old that there's a need to point this out. Have most people never worked with native mail clients (MUA is the technical term)? Memorizing the POP (before IMAP) and SMTP servers for my email providers was quite necessary when I was young, especially since I liked reinstalling my OS often.


Is there a better story for authenticating this than manually generating and storing a long-lived API key in my mutt configuration?


Gmail supports OAuth 2 for IMAP and SMTP:

No idea how feasible it is to integrate that with mutt in a client-only integration or if you need a backend for this, though.


I haven't used a mail client for my personal mail in at least 20 years. Unless you count the Gmail android app.


You don’t use one at work?


No I don't currently, but also:

> for my personal mail


I don't _need_ full GMail feature functionality. It's not necessary.


Old stuff stills need to be maintained and sometimes old stuff starts requiring the new stuff to work as before. Not to mention maintaining old CI/CD pipelines and Google custom builders.


It's not as if Google is exactly hurting for profit, build time, or engineers trained in checks notes basic HTML forms. This is a "fuck you" to folks on low-powered devices, low-bandwidth connections, and anyone else not generally monetizable through their horrendously slow bloatware UI and product tie-ins therein.


Which low end devices can’t run the current version of the mobile gmail site? Who isn’t able to run it?

The smartphone penetration rate in sub-Saharan counties has doubled between 2013 and 2017. Countries like Ghana and Senegal had about 30% usage in 2017, and South Africa was over 50%.

And 2017 was 6 years ago, so we’re probably at the point where the majority of people in some of the least developed countries on earth are using smartphones that can run a lightweight mobile site with some JavaScript like gmail.

At least half of Africa has LTE connectivity, while over 75% has 3G.


I live in a rich country and can afford a smartphone but I don't want a site that needs JavaScript to work. I don't want 4G or 5G or above to be mandatory to work well. Because this is completely at odds with what we should be doing environmentally wise: keep existing devices as long as possible without needing to buy new ones, and just use less energy overall. Don't change a website because it feels old, because that's energy that could be used elsewhere. Don't require heavy interactivity. Don't require Yet Another network.


You don’t want to have 4G? Hate to break it to you, in the US 3G has already been shut off. There is only 4G/5G.

The same will follow for all other countries. LTE is more cost effective and better for cellular carriers and users.

This idea from the hardcore tech Luddite community that the web has died the moment we have to run a line of JavaScript is completely ridiculous. My computer from 1999 could run JavaScript in the browser. It’s time to get over it.

Plus, email has an alternative with mail clients, which are a better experience for users with poor data connectivity, anyway.


Not OP, but I don't think the point is 3G vs 4G. I think (and hold the same ideal myself) that requirements should be kept as low as feasible. HTML gMail is there, it works, it's unlikely its maintenance would break the bank for Google - so why kill it?

We will be pushed to 4G sooner or later, but lower requirements helps at any major events with lots of traffic on cell towers, or a slow, spotty, over-subscribed wifi connection at an airport or hotel. It helps when your main device breaks, but you don't want one app with high memory requirements to kill everything else on your (old) backup.


Here’s my guess: nobody’s actually using the HTML gmail anymore because device and network capability has improved tenfold or more globally in the last decade or so. The amount of people who moved from feature phones to smartphones is basically everyone.

Slow and spotty connections are a nostalgic memory for most people, and even if they’re not, Google provides low bandwidth alternatives via their app and third party mail clients.

It’s fine that this service doesn’t cost much money to run but if nobody’s using it there’s no point.


It's not that I don't want 4G, it's that I don't want to need 4G. Yes, 4G is more efficient for the same amount of data... but Jevons is fully active and we are consuming way more data in 4G than in 3G to the point that we are just using more and more equipment, devices, services, ...

I am proud to call myself a luddite, because contrary to popular knowledge luddites (and neo-luddites) are not technophobic but technocritics: they question whether a technological progress is also a social progress, a human progress, an environmental progress. There is little reason to believe that 4G and 5G are such.

If your computer from 1999 can run current websites, why change websites ?


is Basic HTML Gmail free of JS? I had to use it recently I remember typing in the to/from fields and there were autocomplete pop-ups.


There is javascript and javascript, it's all about the proper amount of complexity. Just like HN that does have JS but only a tiny amount, not necessary for working, and can still work without.

I don't know how gmail works, my comment is more general. I want more HN-like and less Medium-like


I live in a major German city and I had until last month a limited mobile data contract. Once I ran out of data, I was downgraded to a slower speed. The way it apparently works is that, instead of delivering (say) 17Kb per second, they would deliver 1Mb at high speed and then nothing for the remaining 59 seconds. Almost every AJAX website would time out, with HN and (RIP) being some of the few websites that would still work under these conditions. The classic GMail has a 50/50 chance of loading, but if it loads then it stays loaded.

I'm from South America and I've been to touristic places with real bad internet. People living there definitely feel these kind of choices.


But you don’t have that legacy plan anymore, do you? So now you don’t have this problem.

Even if you still had this problem you would have an email client or Gmail app as an alternative, both options that can function offline and in spotty connections.

I would guess this service is being deprecated because nobody is using it.


You seem hellbent convinced that bad connections don't matter if you can't personally see them. Consider that if you're here in a community full of some of the geekiest people to ever roam the planet and you have a wave of people telling you there's a problem, that there's probably hundreds of thousands of folks suffering in silence that you'll never hear from - maybe because their connection is throttled or high-ping or some other calamity.


I'll speak from personal experience sailing around some not-even-THAT-remote places this year when I say: shitty network connections still exist. Rampantly. Even in the US and Canada. Hop on a Starlink dish or even just a cell phone tether somewhere in rural Nevada or at sea in British Columbia some time. Heck, hop on hotel wifi in Juneau Alaska (the capital of that state, no less) - that terrestrial connection in 2021 was so bad that I had lag SSHing to my home server to run mutt and vim. The modern internet was completely inaccessible: attempting to post a picture to Mastodon would just time out.

These are the usecases Google is declaring are not worth accessing their services anymore.


My laptop is over 10 years old and crawls on "modern" Gmail. There are probably lots of people in my situation, but without the means to upgrade or the knowhow to set up a native client.


i knew they'd do it. just like they did to googlecode.


Where did you see this notification?


This tweet at least has a screenshot with the same language, so probably a direct email.


If at least they can stop pushing a bigger and bigger non dimissable banner to force using the gmail app when viewing from a web browser.

We add that discussion in our company, so yes I get why companies when to push app usage. But please make it dismissable. You have to accept that you will have a small portion of people that for a lot of reason will never use your app, don't try to force it on them. Otherwise you're just polarizing your user.


Looking at you Reddit (well, not anymore). Such an annoying banner there i was "forced" to have to use their API into my feed-reader.


Didn't reddit just kill their API? There's an end-game for all of these services and it's not "happy interoperable ecosystem with multiple third-party clients coexisting"


> Didn't reddit just kill their API?

If you genuinely think that they killed their API and aren't using hyperbole, then you were misled.

They killed 3rd party apps by charging the developers of those apps on a per-request basis at a price that would have been unsustainable for them. However, these charges are only if you're logged in. You can still use 3rd party apps anonymously.

If you want to be logged in so you can post/vote/comment, there's a work-around. If you create your own client ID and put it into an existing app, then you can still use third party apps (on Android at least) [0]. I'm still using BaconReader this way.



The API is still free for individuals to get a key for personal use. It's recently no longer free for getting a key that you'll bake into something widely distributed to many users (like a turnkey app).

It's also now forbidden to distribute a turnkey app that lets the end user paste their personal key after build time (app must only use a single key, so the developer gets billed). Interesting that whatever reader djbusby is talking about doesn't fall afoul! Is it something that's specifically compatible with Reddit's API off the shelf, or did you create that layer yourself?


The apps don't supply a mechanism for supplying your own API key; you have to patch the app to replace the bundled one with your own one.


I switched to using the Mimestream app for my gmail and it has been fast and easy to use.


Damn. I loved the basic HTML feature in Gmail when logging in on a slow-as-shit 3G connection, or I was behind several proxies and latency was an issue. More enshittification by Google.


Wouldn’t just pulling emails through IMAP / POP take even less bandwidth?


Depends on your workflow. You might just mark everything as read, or archive them, rather than download and read them.


I believe IMAP lets you do that.


This is what I do, usually... I run my own mailserver, but I also have a gmail account, and I just use Thunderbird to connect to both... when I'm on desktop. I auto-download and auto-delete the mail from gmail server, in order to stay under their storage limit. But that can end up using quite a bit of bandwidth, and unexpected delays if some uncle sends me some giant mp4 cat video. The alternative would be having to periodically go in and download everything and clean out my gmail, which is just too irritating.


Unrelated but made me think of this anecdote; Many years ago I met a tech-savy captain who did have satellite internet on his ship, but it was incredibly expensive (not sure about current pricing), so he only used it briefly every now and then. To receive e-mails (and some other things) he had a server somewhere which fetches everything and then zips it up as compressed as possible and when online synced it to a local computer/server that's onboard.

It was pretty fun/interesting to see creative solutions like that to deal with very limited bandwidth in practice.


Some 20+ years ago I was a frigate Commo on the great circle route from Pearl Harbor to San Diego.

We'd pull email down over Inmarsat, but the geometry was such that the ship literally had to come to a different course and speed to keep a lock on the bird.

Physics matter sometimes.


Agreed, it is/was far superior for poor connections


No! I use it constantly because in normal gmail I can only have like 5 versions open ( I have a lot of tabs) before my mac pro explodes. But for HTML gmail I can leave emails open for reference without exploding.

I use it so often, it loads so fast for multiple email accounts, instant refresh, it was so good


I'm surprised I haven't heard this argument more. It's an absurd amount of javascript.[0] I'd think the effect on battery life would be at least as important to many people as the bandwidth of loading it.

[0] Just checked, and I get 8.22Mb of heavily compressed JS to load Gmail!

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I personally use plaintext for all my email, largely because I want people to be able to choose whichever font they'd like to read my email, but also because I want people reading my email to know there's no hidden bullshit like tracking pixels or images or anything crazy like that. In a very literal sense, I feel with plaintext email, what you see is what you get.

Sadly, it's getting increasingly hard to work entirely in text mode for email nowadays; people don't have any issues reading my text mail but almost 0% of all my incoming email is plaintext compatible; for mutt I have to run most of my emails through w3m before reading them, which isn't a huge deal but I kind of wish people would just send plaintext unless they have a specific reason not to.


I don't think that's what they're referring to. I think it's referring to the view in the browser. The email contents itself might still be html/rich text and/or plaintext but viewing in the browser, you have to use the new Gmail UI instead of the original Gmail HTML Basic.


Yeah, fair enough; that's what I get for not actually clicking the link before commenting.

My dumb fault.


I had to tell a CTO that we can't do plaintext marketing/communication emails because they're much less effective for the average user. I feel like they died a little that day.

You, the CTO, and I all prefer plaintext emails, but we're very much the minority.



It doesn't affect me, but there are objective reasons for letting people choose their own fonts. My dad has dyslexia and generally has an easier time reading Comic Sans than other fonts. For (I think) obvious reasons his company isn't going to start sending all their HTML-formatted emails in Comic Sans, which means he artificially has to spend more time reading emails than he might otherwise, unless he wants to copypaste the message bodies into MSWord and convert it.


Plaintext emails mean no inline pictures, no colours, no links and no tables.

What we lose is simply not worth it for the point 1% of people who use mutt.


I mentioned in a sister comment, one advantage of plaintext email, regardless of your client, is that they can be viewed in any font you'd like.

There are fonts that are a bit more accessible to people with dyslexia like Comic Sans which companies aren't going to just randomly start sending emails in.


I don't want email messages with, inline pictures, colours, and links that obscure their target. (I also don't want emoji.) Tables can still be made in plain text if necessary. (I use a email client that does not even support HTML email, so it is displayed as plain text anyways. If you send it as both (which some programs do), then it can be possible to configure the client (if it can be configured as such) to display it as plain text.)


I do work entirely in text mode for email. However, I do not receive much email messages and those that I do, they know I want plain text. Even if they have to use a program with only HTML to send, if the message is simple enough then it is still readable enough anyways, fortunately.


Another reason I'm deprecating Gmail. I'll keep it around awhile, but it's already not my main email provider. I paid for ProtonMail early on and will probably pay for it again at some point even though my use of email in general is comfortably within the free tier.


Same here, but I am backing Tutanota.