Nat TaylorBlog, Product Management & Tinkering

Ads Lead to Inbox by Gmail Shut Down

Published on . Updated on

Google announced on September 12th that Inbox by Gmail would be shut down in March 2019 and while many speculated it was just another example of generally anti-user decision making, it can probably be attributed to ads.

By 2015, Gmail had over 1 Billion monthly active users1, which is a massive audience to reach with ads.  Additionally, marketers love email, email users are easily addressable, easily trackable, already used to receiving promotions, already spending lots of time in email clients, already spending lots of mobile time, difficult to ad block, can be contained in the in-app browser and more.

There are no publicly available metrics for Gmail ads or Inbox by Gmail adoption, but in many cases Gmail is the top placement for marketers running Google Ads display network campaigns.

For Google to sell Gmail ads, they need to engineer and maintain a lot of code including the ad units themselves, the ad slot code in the clients, the UI to manage the ads, the backend campaign mechanics and inclusion in the AdWords API, plus provide support and marketing.

After Gmail Ads were launched in September 2015, of the course of years, they have steadily announced feature enhancements, including the release of Gmail Dynamic Retargeting Ads last November.

The development cost of this is significant and undeniable.  The cost of doing basically all of that work a second time is no doubt untenable, and lead Google to shutdown Inbox by Gmail, especially since they had already ported many of the most popular features like “snooze.”

Gmail ads launched as Gmail Sponsored Promotions, which had to be managed outside of AdWords and also required a change to Gmail’s email scanning policy.

Years later the benefits of merging into mainline Google Ads is clear.

Google killed Inbox by Gmail because of ads, or the lack thereof.  RIP.

Gmail Ads Timeline


  1. Google Q4 2015 Earnings Call

P.S. Take a trip down memory lane and look at an early Gmail promotional page:

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