Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 8, 201411:56 PM

Did Google Just Kill Email?

Don't know someone's email address? No need to fret, Google is here.

Confused? Don't be. Let's go back in time to a blog post titled, Is Google+ About To Make Facebook Frown?, from January 2012: "Google has the power (and ability) to make Google+ (and everything being shared within it) the underlying social platform within all of its many applications (Android, Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa, Google Maps, Google News, YouTube, etc...). And - make no mistake about it - both Facebook and Twitter are not fans of having their information indexed on Google." Google just announced that if you would like to email someone and you do not know their email address, you will be able to send them a message through Google+ (if they have an account) and, if they respond to that initial message, you will then have their email address. Along with this, Google recently enabled new functionality on YouTube whereby all of the comments are connected through Google+ (even though this move is upsetting some users).

Everything is social.

So many of the other 800 pound gorillas in social media are doing everything they can to keep a semblance of a walled garden (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc...). Even the ability to embed certain components of these social media channels across other sites still sends any interaction with that content back to the original source. Google+ - as I stated back in 2012 - isn't a real destination, but rather the social layer that will connect anything and everything Google and Android. This is just the beginning, and it could well spell the end of email as we have known it (something many individuals - like myself - might welcome). Imagine the ability to simply communicate in whatever format works? If I wanted to have a Google Hangout with you, shoot you an instant message, email, text, whatever. What if your Google + profile page literally became your unified communications dashboard for everything? Now, combine that thought with the opportunity to ensure that all communications are socially enabled and suddenly, the possibilities become endless. We could see distinct profiles for groups at work, family, friends, people you're interested in... oh, wait, that sounds a lot like Google Circles, doesn't it? One of the main attractions of Google+'s early adopters was the ability to create these circles of relationships.

Suddenly, the picture begins to get a little clearer.

Google can have these many disparate technology platforms (search, videos, word processing, mobile operating system, smartphones, driverless cars, etc...) with different audiences, but so long as Google+ remains the social layer beneath them all, odds are that individuals will - over time - all have some kind of Google+ profile and page. All Google needs to do is keep creating tools, software and utilities that people want to use, and allow them to enable it all through this unified profile that keeps getting smarter and more personal based on what an individual is creating, searching for and connecting to. Currently, you can use your Gmail account to log into your Android device, so it's a small step for Google to change it from your email account to your Google+ profile.

Don't let that creep you out.

Half-joking on that, but we need to face reality. If you have an Android device, use Gmail and search often for whatever, just think about what Google already knows about you. Couple that with a handful of social media-like connections that you make along the way, and suddenly a very robust and powerful picture of who - exactly - you are comes to fruition. Google has also been very aggressive in the enterprise space, so imagine the data and information that is being gathered in that realm as well. How many businesses do you know that would turn away from the opportunity to have the business tools and communications platforms all combined in a fast, cheap and effective manner? Google moves all of the software to the cloud and suddenly small, medium and large businesses are outsourcing more and more of the basic IT solutions to Google to reduce costs, or whatever.

The end of email?

If Google is able to provide a significant value offer in terms of turning your current Google+ profile page into a dashboard for your communications and connectivity, this is a very likely outcome. Most people grapple with their inboxes, so a few tweaks on how we exchange messages, a better way to organize and see who you are connecting with, the ability to easily add others into a conversation thread and some more functionality that has been the limitation of email to date, and this one little tweak gets more and more people simply sending messages through Google+ instead of email.

That may sound radical right now, but it's a logical next step for email's evolution.

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Kingsley
    Mitch Joel

    Google's intentions might be noble and good but the problem is that of allowing ONE company to dictate everything we do or do not do online. It's risky, to say the least.

    But unfortunately there seems to be no stopping Google. They have the billions of dollars of funds to create and even buy up more of those services/tools that we use and merge them into the monster they already are.

    Who can save us from Google? Not Yahoo, not Facebook... maybe YouTube ? Oops, that's also owned by Google, :)

  • Posted by John McLachlan
    Mitch Joel

    Me thinks, Mitch, you've been drinking a little too much of the Google kool aid. :-) Careful.

  • Posted by Arjun Basu
    Mitch Joel

    Oh, the whiff of the cheerleader...

    I will say this. Very soon, we will be able to divide the world in two groups: those who don't care about their privacy (the majority) and those that do and will start opting out of the shared economy in droves. It's already happening but it will accelerate. And just as the current Mayor of Toronto calls everyone a "taxpayer" (as opposed to a "citizen"), people are resenting being called "consumers" or "datapoints" as opposed to, well, people. Digital folk still think they're king(s) of the hill and can't even conceive of people not being as enthused by their vision of paradise as they are. Well, we also know it can be lonely at the top.

    • Posted by John McLachlan
      Mitch Joel

      Great point Arjun.

      I am caring more and more about my privacy and have gone from a huge advocate for all these "advances" to one who is questioning it all and its dark sides.

    • This post wasn't about privacy and opting out. I see that as another (huge and important) issue. Whether I am a Google fanboy (I am!) or not, was not the point or intent of this piece. I am trying to highlight new functionality of communication and our online social networks to (hopefully) change email and make it better. I think Google is doing more than most to make it so. That being said, I don't disagree with any of your sentiments.

      • Posted by John McLachlan
        Mitch Joel

        Mitch - thanks. I'm sorry too, if I came across as being snide about what you're talking about. I think the promise of it all is fantastic and would be a new way of doing things, for the better.

        I do think however, that though it's true your piece was not about privacy (or that all of these services are provided by Google) the "all the eggs in one basket" aspect is what I find most troubling and privacy is a piece of it.

        At any rate, I love your posts and so glad you write about these things. I'm a fan boy of Mitch.

  • Posted by Kimmo Linkama
    Mitch Joel

    As far as individuals in their roles as private citizens go, I'm inclined to concur. As far as business decision-makers, for example, go, not so sure.

    To me it looks like the present—and by the looks of it, increasing—fragmentation of the social media landscape is making generalizations about what's going to "win" a losing game.

    The only truly ubiquitous communication platforms seem to be the mobile phone and an email address.

  • Posted by Art
    Mitch Joel

    I think the person who can create an person to person encryption file app will make a bunch of money. Something simple that automatically encrypts anything leaving your computer over the internat. This would eliminate anyone like Google Dropbox etc from actually having your info unencrypted and keep people's stuff private. I'm surprised someone hasn't done this already - poeple are more and more scared of losing there privacy and something this simple would elimante that fear.

    I'd use something like this - would you?

    Person u send things regularly too just has to install app on there end - no need for passwords etc it would just protect files while they were in transite.

    Just my two cent.

  • Posted by @davelucas
    Mitch Joel

    Whatever Google does there will always be "old-school" email services available. We existed just fine without gmail for years (I was one of the original JUNO email customers, back when it was dial-up email service!)


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