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Google makes Gmail threading a choice

Gmail users will be able to toggle between the service's threaded "conversation" view of mail exchanges and a more traditional style. The option will start arriving today.

Google is addressing one of the biggest complaints new Gmail users have about the service: it's giving users a way to turn off threaded messages.

The company plans to start letting users toggle between Gmail's threaded "conversation" view--which groups messages with the same subject in the in-box--and an old-school in-box style in which incoming e-mails are displayed in the order they were received. The option will be provided to both regular Gmail users and corporate Google Apps users, the company plans to announce today.

Google's Wiltse Carpenter compared the frustration with threaded Gmail to the backlash over cilantro. "And just as an outspoken minority has banded together in unison to declare their distaste of one of nature's most delicious herbs, some of you have been very vocal about your dislike of conversation threading," he wrote in a blog post.

Gmail was created out of Google's frustration with traditional e-mail systems, but over time it has come to resemble those systems more and more as it has gained millions of more mainstream users. Google already has given Gmail users "classic" options besides the new unthreaded messages, adjusting its "labels" organization system so it can work more like the familiar "folders" system.

Behind the scenes, though, Gmail didn't change, and those who prefer Gmail's nouveau ways still can use them. Users can toggle between the conversation view and the unthreaded view through the main Settings menu.