If there has been a longer beta trial in history I've yet to see it, but Gmail could be about to hit v2.0 before it ever gets to v1.0.
The popular and capacious web based email service launched on 1 April 2004 which equates to over 43 months of 'pre-release' testing but recent noodling (which includes doubling storage and adding free IMAP support) certainly suggested something was is in the pipeline.
Now Google Blogspot has confirmed a new Gmail interface (dubbed by Google internally as 'v2.0') is being slowly rolled out across its user base. Key features will be mail pre-fetching to dramatically reduce message loading times, an updated contact manager with inline search and vCard support and seamless integration with Picasa Web Albums (seen above) for faster photo selection and mailing.
Given the changes are subtle Google says some users may not have noticed they are running the new version. An 'Older version' option beside 'Settings' in the top right of the screen should be a subtle hint though... (I don't have it yet, otherwise there'd be a better selection of images *sigh*).
Anyone still doubting Gmail is the best free web email service around? Nope, me neither...
Update: Gmail 2.0 will initially only be viewable through IE7 and Firefox 2.x browsers. The rest of you will have to wait in line while we all, er... wait in line.