Google has begun including advertisements as e-mail messages in some Gmail users’ inboxes, a new step in the company’s effort to turn its free services into revenue sources.
The company has shown ads alongside Gmail messages for years, but these ads appear as messages that can be opened like e-mails and forwarded to others, according to Gmail users who started seeing them last week. They appear only in the new “promotions” tab of Gmail’s new multi-tab interface, and they’re marked with a pale yellow background and labeled “ad,” similar to how Google treats some search ads that appear above or to the right of search results.
The ads aren’t likely to sit well with a lot of people already dealing with plenty of inbox clutter — especially those who have appreciated Gmail’s abilities to weed out spam. “Inbox tabs should only include your messages, not ads disguised as email,” opined Alex Chitu on the unofficial Google Operating System blog after seeing the ads last week.
CNET contacted Google for comment and will update this post with its remarks. In a statement to Venture Beat, the company described the program this way:
Instead of ads always appearing at the top of your inbox, they’ve been relegated to a more appropriate place in your Promotions category. In addition, we’ve raised the quality of these ads and won’t show you an ad unless it’s relevant — which means you may sometimes see no ads at all in your Promotions tab. You can also dismiss the ads you see in your Promotions tab by clicking the “X” button on the right-hand side.
Google works to keep search ads relevant to the people who see them, and doubtless will try to take that approach here, too. They’d better, given how much more prominent they are.
So far, Google still isn’t showing ads in Google+.