It started breaking late last night that Google was about to launch some sort of new social feature within Gmail
that would help people share content and I actually groaned out load and thought to myself...Ah FFS not more noise. Social media at the moment is very noisy and all the good content is diluted by spam and finding the good links is becoming increasingly difficult. Google is probably going to try and change all that with their new product but as far as I can see it has one major flaw...I don't really want or need to share content with my Gmail contacts, they are probably the last sort of people I want to engage with in that way as they are all clients or people I want to keep a professional relationship with. Companies seem to be on a crazed mission to re-invent email and how we communicate but I have some news for you...I am very happy with email and most of the world has been for about 15 years now.
Google Doesn't Get Social So Far
Google have been trying to get in to the social space for the last couple of years but it really doesn't seem to be panning out for them that well so far. They have lots of money to throw at the problem and a huge amount of resources but here are some of the products that have not really taken off for them so far...
This was marketed (and mostly believed by tech peeps) as an email killer. Invites we issued to developers first and were like gold dust in the first few months. Fast forward 5 months and the service that was meant to do away with Email is like a Ghost town and although it may have other uses (conferences etc) it has certainly not hit the mainstream nor does it ever look likely to. When it comes to email it looks like the vast majority of people were perfectly happy with what they had and just didn't see the need to have a whole host of new features added to a product that already worked perfectly.
Google have been trying to make Google reader more social for as long as I can remember but the simple fact is that the features are barely used and the people sharing content through Google Reader are few and far between. The fact that the mainstream never embraced RSS was a big enough problem (I am talking Ordinary Joe Bloggs here not the tech world where it has been readily embraced) but the fact that even the people who did don't want to share content through RSS is an even bigger one. People use their reader to find good content and read it and they would probably share it through that platform if there were enough people there but there aren't so they don't.
Google Search Results
Remember all the fuss about Google adding live stream of social media from Facebook
and Twitter to their search results? You see it there all the time but does anybody actually use it for anything practical? I see the results all the time and grimace as there is just no way I am using them. Sadly for Google if I want live search results I am heading directly over to Twitter and searching there. I wouldn't rule this feature out just yet as the Google search boffins are certainly a lot smarter than I am but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised to see it vanish or at least morph in to something more useful than it currently is.
Buying Twitter and Digg
There is very little doubt that Google was in discussion with both Twitter and Digg last year but the price put them off on both occasions. The logic behind the move would be that if they can't innovate to enter the space then they could just take a service out that already had mass appeal. The talks fell through on both occasions but that is probably not a bad thing as Google has a pretty bad history with making acquisitions and letting them flounder. Just ask the guys in Dodgeball that Google pretty much killed and has since reformed and gone on to be the success that is Foursquare.
The New Gmail Product
I'll tell you how things are going to go over the next couple of days...First off there will be massive hype. There always is with these sorts of products. People will be writing blog posts claiming that email is dead, Twitter is dead and Facebook is finished. We will be told that this little feature is going to change our lives and how we should embrace it immediately. I do see some problems ahead though...
Don't Mess With My Email
Although we all like to think that we communicate through Twitter and Facebook etc nearly all of our business work is done through email. We send attachments, view presentations, send out quotes and do lots of daily tasks that help grow our business. I really don't want that to change and I even resent having Google Chat within my email as it often distracts me from what I am up to. In short I don't really want anybody to mess with my email because I am perfectly happy with it and I don't want it to be used for discovering content or sharing links or search or whatever other great idea Google has dreamed up for me.
Too Much Noise Already
I have too much noise in my online life already as it is. I have cut down on my Twitter usage and tried to scale back on what I waste my time on online. Social media has a massive noise problem at the moment similar to the search market 10 years ago and it is something that needs sorting out fast. We are bombarded with links and content from all over the place and it is getting hard to find relevancy. The last thing that we need is a product that brings that noise in to our inbox and interferes with our email. Do we really need more noise?
Hit Or MissAs you can see above Google has had plenty of misses in the social media landscape but it is also worth considering the amount of money, marketing muscle and users it has to throw behind this product. It has taken people by surprise and nobody had been talking about this before but you would have to think that after the Twitter talks broke down Google would have had a plan B and this could just be it. Remember that although it does have a lot of failures to it's name Google does also run the biggest video sharing site in the world and Orkut a popular social networking platform (mainly Brazil) so it can claim some success. All I am asking is that they don't come along and ruin my email experience and create a whole bunch of noise!