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Google has long been an ad company rather than a search company, and its Gmail transformation is the latest proof of this.

Gmail's new inbox, which has been slowly rolling out to select users since last week, has added in-line ads that resemble regular emails at the top of your Promotions tab.

Google now sorts your emails into three different tabs: Primary, Social and Promotions. Primary, as the name suggests, includes 'normal' emails like business correspondence and day-to-day stuff, while Social includes social media updates from Twitter and Facebook. Promotions is for marketing offers and deals, like Scoopon or Catch of the Day.

The new Promotions tab, however, features not just emails but also paid-for-placement advertising that appear to be emails, alongside the standard advertisements that Gmail already has in place.

These new advertisements come with a shaded background and the word "ad" appearing below the sender's name, meaning it shouldn't be difficult to differentiate between an advertisement and a normal email, although users can open them and read them like they would a normal email.

"It's a new type of ad which you can forward to a friend, or star to save it to your inbox. If you dismiss this ad, you won't see it again," Google said in a statement.

The move has already been criticised by users however, with some on Twitter labelling it as "annoying", although one Marketing guru described it as "revolutionary."

Earlier this year Microsoft set up its 'Scroogled' campaign, in attempt to point out privacy concerns and the fact Google is now essentially a massive advertising firm.

Google was also described as an 'ad company by former executive James Whittaker, who wrote earlier this year in a blog post, "the Google I was passionate about was a technology company that empowered its employees to innovate. The Google I left was an advertising company with a single corporate-mandated focus."

With the new 'feature', Gmail users can't opt out of receiving the promotions if they want to keep the tab. CNET is reporting there are two ways to stop receiving the promotions, either disable the Promotions tab, or go back to the old inbox style.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. He also writes for Junkee and Fasterlouder. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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