Google talks spam trends, spiffs up Gmail labels

The first of the month always brings a bountiful harvest from Google's blogging troops, and two posts yesterday pointed us to some nifty changes to Gmail's labels features and passed along some cheerful numbers concerning spam levels as measured by the company's Postini group.

With one notable exception, those who rely even moderately on Gmail's labels ought to like where things are going. The section is finally positioned above the chat area, for starters, and your labels can be easily grouped and rearranged for your convenience rather than only in alpha order. (Gmail attempts to help you out by picking a few to put at the top of the list, hiding the rest, but we found that it didn't guess well at all; fortunately, sorting it out was drag-and-drop simple.)

Drag-and-drop is working between the message pane and the labels too, and behaves just as the recently released "Move" option does, simultaneously labeling and archives the messages you're dealing with. It takes a second to figure out that the correct grab spot is on the extreme left edge of the message (if you weren't already using drag-and-drop with abandon to shift messages into folders), but once you're doing it right it's simple.

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So what's not to love? Alas, those of you who enjoyed the Right-Side Labels option in Labs must grieve and move on. With the new labels functionality, the option needs must be retired -- the first Labs option to be thus decommissioned, notes the Official Gmail Blog.

More serious e-mail matters are under discussion on the Official Google Enterprise Blog, where the latest Postini numbers on spam volume were posted yesterday morning. Spam is increasing, as it has been since that marvelous McColo takedown and concomitant back in November.

But the 3FN shutdown in early June has its effect too -- a look at the charts shows a drop on June 4 to about half the spam levels of just a few weeks earlier, with no return yet to those May '09 levels. Don't get too cheerful, advises Google blogger Amanda Kleha -- as with McColo, these takedowns inevitably draw opportunistic new players into the market. But overall, judging from the numbers presented, the month could have been worse.

One of the month's more unexpected trends, writes Kleha, is the resurgence of two "old-school" spam models. Image spam is back -- still blocked by most filters, but possibly of use to spammers in determining how the various filters are reacting to different subject lines and content. (Focus-grouping the filters!) Postini also saw a rise in e-mail-borne viruses -- more of it than they've seen in two years, in fact.

Postini, Google's email security-and-archiving service, monitors e-mail on behalf of about 50,000 organizations.

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