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July 18, 2007

Social Gmail

Google has an emerging social network and it doesn't use it. No, I don't talk about orkut or Socialstream (which was only sponsored by Google). Gmail, Google's most successful project if we leave search aside, has the potential of gathering information from all the other Google services that can be easily shared with your contacts.

The Past
Contacts started to become actual links in a social network when Gmail added avatars, last year. The chat made it possible to see the online presence of some of your contacts.

In April, iGoogle added a surprising feature: wizards that let you build simple gadgets and share them with your friends: greetings, photo albums, counting the days until a special event. A smart man made this comment: "This reminds me of a Facebook profile page. You can share your favorite photos/videos, put up your status, and add friends to your community so you can look at each other's pages. Google is sort of jumping into the social networking realm with this one...".

The Present
Most Google services have a way to share content: you can share your favorite videos, photo albums, documents, blog posts, but there's no central place to manage how you share content or a simple way to expose the shared content.

Google Reader has a feature that lets you share feed items, but you need to explicitly send to your friends the link to your shared items. Facebook's app for Google Reader generates a list of the top shared items by your friends, and that's a great way to discover new content filtered by the people you know.

Many Google services ask you to create a profile: Google Groups, Blogger, orkut, dodgeball, Google Co-op, but all these profiles are distinct and difficult to manage.

The Future
Gmail can easily create a graph of the interactions with your contacts based on how fast you answer to someone's message, how much do you write, the analysis of messages. Instead of a static profile you need to build for each of your contact, you could see his live profile that contains information aggregated from different services.

All this data could make you communicate more efficiently because Gmail could prioritize messages based on previous patterns and show more context about a contact when you type your message.

Gmail could also separate your contacts into different groups and let you share different data for each group. You'll share photos, documents, web sites, notes from a single place.

Creating a mail application centered on conversations instead of messages was a smart move from Google, but now Gmail should focus on those who create the conversations and try to make the conversations better. After all, conversation comes from the latin conversari ("to associate with"), so conversations could update the associations from Gmail's social graph. That's Gmail 2.0, the social Gmail.


  1. With a better contacts manager they can create network. Because they yet have users, but there isn't connection.

  2. it's not nearly ready, but tought you might like a peek

  3. So this is the Digg competitor? A bigger user base should improve the quality of the posts (right now, the top post only has 46 shares), but it's nice to finally see this idea implemented.

  4. I agree they need a better contact manager first (maybe thats what part of the Grand Central deal is about).

  5. alex: definitely we need a bigger user base :)

  6. I remember people mentioned that orkut is merely experimental thing of Google before real campaign to social networking begin.

  7. Google has all the tools in its hands. They've purchased half a dozen social projects, and yet I still haven't seen very strong peer interaction. Sharing feed items or home-made iGoogle widgets is great, but the way they're done makes it difficult to use. As a result, they appear unattractive.

    Google doesn't need to buy Facebook or try to buy any more start up companies to get a better contact manager. It has all the engineers it needs to figure out how to make applications on their own, like they used to. Why is creativity getting outsourced to smaller startups? Bring it together, Google. The tools are in your hands.

  8. just add the big opportunities offered by Google Calendar (with free sms that remind you your rendez-vous) and you actually own the best network manager. Google should move on quickly, because a less efficient tool (Facebook, of course) could dominate the matter very soon!

  9. social gmail should do something for the society at large. A reputation service, or donation service like Google should get there act together and make gmail powerful don't follow lead!

  10. digg is going to die, because the popularity of RSS will grow at a much faster rate than the rate of people *adding* a digg button to their website/feed. google reader (either mario's thing, or some other way, doesn't really matter to me as a user - sorry mario, love the app though :) is going to crush digg because it's easier for content producers (only need to publish a feed which in many cases requires literally no effort) and easier for users - 1 click sharing. good riddance to bad rubbish with digg! the game's up!


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