Google Introduces Email “Panic Button”

Google has announced a feature that gives users five seconds to cancel the sending of a mail message

Google has introduced a new feature to Gmail: a five-second window to “unsend” a message that the user has second thoughts about.

Microsoft Outlook, with its “Recall” button, and the “Unsend” feature on AOL e-mail already allow users to take back e-mail under specific circumstances (in the latter case, for example, only when the e-mail in question is sent between AOL members).

Within Gmail Labs, an option now exists under Settings to turn on “Undo Send.” From that point on, whenever an e-mail is sent, an “Undo” link will appear on the send mail confirmation. By clicking that link, the message will be routed back into composition – where the user can then change that “Meeting on Firday” to “Meeting on Friday.”

Gmail’s Undo has its limits, however.

“This feature can’t pull back an e-mail that’s already gone; it just holds your message for five seconds so you have a chance to hit the panic button,” Michael Leggett, user experience designer for Google, wrote on the official Gmail blog. “And don’t worry – if you close Gmail or your browser crashes in those few seconds, we’ll still send your message.”

Google has been working to make Gmail a more robust enterprise platform, with features such as access to Google Docs and Google Calendar from the mail service.

In recent months, however, the service has also been wrestling with outages that, while not crippling, have made some users question the supposedly “always on” reliability of major cloud-based applications.

A number of people writing on message boards in Google Groups felt that Gmail’s five-second limit was perhaps a bit short.

“A little more time will be better. A 15 second or a minutes delay is no [big] deal. Maybe an additional small ‘send immediately’ button for those in a hurry!” wrote one user.

“This sounds like a good idea, but if you’re drunk enough even this won’t help,” volunteered another.