Google on Thursday started rolling out changes designed to further integrate its Gmail and Google+ platforms. The updates make it easier for Google+ users to contact other users without knowing their email addresses.
Going forward, when users with both a Gmail and a Google+ account begin typing a contact’s name into an email draft, a list of Google+ contacts will appear along with other contacts. For instance, if a user typed “Michael” into the “To” field while composing an email, Google would suggest, say, three Michaels from email contacts, along with another two from Google+ circles.
The email addresses of those Google+ connections would not be displayed. The user would be able to send an email via Google+ but would not have access to the email addresses until the recipients allowed it by replying to the message.
Users will have control over how many people will be able to email them via Google+. They can extend the ability to just the people they’ve accepted into their Google+ circles, to those in extended circles — meaning people with whom they share a mutual connection — or to any Google+ user. They also can opt out entirely.
The updates will be rolling out over the next few days to Gmail and Google+ users, who will be notified via email when the features are available on their account.
Too Much Access?
Some users might view the updates as an aggressive attempt by Google to drive Google+ adoption, said Thomas Bibby Varghese, CEO and founder of eBizUniverse.
“This opens the door for total strangers to contact you,” Varghese told TechNewsWorld. “After trying hard to unseat Facebook from the undisputed No. 1 position as the mass social media network, Google has been desperately trying to force people to join Google+.”
The Gmail updates also could provide another way for advertisers to target new consumers, noted Internet marketing expert Brian Carter. Marketing advantages often come hand-in-hand with privacy concerns, however, and this new Gmail feature is no exception.
“There are some marketers who don’t view themselves as spammers, but other people see them that way,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Google has made efforts to keep consumers’ in-boxes free from spam, though, Carter noted. The company recently made changes that give users options to sort their email by primary, social and promotional messages.
With the new feature, emails sent to someone via Google+ from a user within their circles will appear in the primary category. An email from someone outside of circles would show up in the social filter.
“Gmail has done a pretty good job of filtering and categorizing incoming emails,” Carter observed. “Some marketers who have already secured opt-in permission to send emails are having trouble reaching those people via Gmail.”
Even if marketers do reach those people via Gmail, it’s not likely it will spark more than mild annoyance, said Varghese. Users can opt out, or they can simply adjust.
“I’m sure people will be angry about it,” he said, “but will people cancel accounts? I don’t think so. After some time, we just get used to it.”