Phil Wolff writes about how Google’s new Hotmailesque entry (still in beta) is more than yet another mail product. The differentiating factor most often cited is that Gmail is poised to provide a gig of mail memory–enough to hold months or years for most people. That’s especially important when email is used by many people as more than a means for transmitting information, but as a file system. By accident, email ends up providing a way of looking at your files in terms of who, when, and what, in a way that the OS doesn’t. Who really fills in “subject” information for their documents? But for emails, of course.
Nonetheless, this space is more than just space. Google wants your email. They want your email because it gives them a way to know you and to personalize search for you. Yes, Google has search, and specialized searching for place, for product, and individualized by interest. Right now, individualized searching requires you to tell Google what you are looking for, but that will change. Google has ads, filtered according to a statistical analysis of text. Google has blogs (Pyra), and google has a social networking system (Orkut).
It looks like google is trying to put a foot in the door in each form of social web services. And, as widely noted, Google isn’t holding itself to any sort of solid privacy policies. So, as Wolff notes, it isn’t Google’s involvement in these services that is interesting, it is the possibility that they will be linked.
I say “possibility,” because that’s really all it is right now. In addition to these services, Google also has the talent needed to mine these sources and provide really tantalizing information products. But for now, it seems to be languishing. Orkut seems less a product than a toy, and Blogger, while still widely used, has remained less innovative than its rivals. It will be interesting to see if Google is simply struggling to keep all of these balls in the air, or if they are striving in secret to pull them together into a unified whole. If they don’t do this, I will be surprised; they would be missing a one-time-only opportunity.