Google has announced the discontinuation of the Basic HTML version of Gmail, effective January 2024. This stripped-back version, known for its compatibility with slower connections and legacy browsers, will automatically switch to the Standard view upon loading, post-discontinuation. The Basic HTML version notably lacks several features present in its Standard counterpart, including Chat, contact import, and rich formatting.
Impact on Accessibility
The decision has sparked conversations around digital accessibility, as the Basic HTML version is a preferred choice among visually impaired users for its compatibility with screen readers and simplified navigation. “I know many #blind people who use GMail's HTML view. Not only will they be confused but will be unhappy,” expressed Pratik Patel, a blind technologist advocating for accessibility. Google has faced criticism for making the Basic HTML view less accessible in recent months, a move that is now understood in light of its discontinuation.
Google is known for removing products that do not align with its goals. A community-driven archive, “Killed by Google,” documents such products. However, user feedback has previously influenced Google's decisions. In 2022, the company continued the G Suite legacy free edition for personal use after receiving numerous complaints from users. Google maintains that it is “committed to making accessibility a core consideration” and highlights the various accessibility features available in Gmail.