By the time Google’s Inbox app launched in 2014, the designer responsible for its vision knew it was destined for failure.
“It was kind of [a] dead man walking,” says Michael Leggett, a former Gmail design lead and the person who guided Inbox through its first four years of development.
Inbox, in case you don’t recall, was a daring reinvention of the tried-and-true email interface. Google initially described the effort as a “completely different type of inbox”—a “better way to get back to what matters.” It was technically still Gmail, mind you, but with a whole new interface and way of interacting that emphasized efficiency. Some of its concepts have since been integrated into Gmail itself, such as snoozing. But Inbox’s most transformative enhancements have remained vexingly out of reach ever since Google gave up on the service in 2019.