Google announced that its webmail service Gmail is becoming all the richer with the inclusion of support for sending Google Calendar invitations inside the email composition window.Email may be old fashioned, but it's still where we spend a lot of our time online. Today
In addition to being able to insert invitations, you can also cross reference your calendar availability with the availability of anyone included in your email thread that you have given permission to see the Google Calendar. It's not a perfect system, but it's pretty neat and it demonstrates the potential for building cool new features on top of our email inboxes.
Mashups and platforms are all about cross referencing multiple sources of data or functionality, as in this case: email plus calendar. We wrote earlier this spring about a startup called Rapportive that cross references email and social media data about an email's sender (see also competitor Etacts), and earlier this month we discussed the incredible potential in Google's announcement of a way to give developers secure access to the contents of your emails for analysis and the creation of innovative services.
Yahoo has been calling this kind of approach Inbox 2.0 and has been working on it for more than two years. Here's what we wrote in our November 2007 coverage of Yahoo's vision - how do you think it's worked out? (Yahoo Says the Future Will Be Modeled on Facebook)
The social network of the future will be populated by the RSS feeds of the activities of your friends and your friends will be determined by email. The big players won't put a major push into building a new social network. "It is much easier to extend an existing habit than to create a brand," are the words Google's Joe Krause.
Your email account isn't valuable because it's got the email adresses of other people who could be solicited commercially - it's valuable because it articulates who in the world is able to command your attention. It contains analyzable, direct communication between you and the people most important to you.
[Yahoo's] Garlinghouse says that in the future email and IM will be prioritized depending on the importance to you of the people who send it to you. We're not talking about the number of times people email you - we're talking about the percentage of times you open those emails, the keywords used in them relative to your personal/work profile, there are metrics so crazy we can hardly imagine that are available for determining the importance of people in your life. In your email. Facebook's people-search uses some similar math already.
Various Ways Email Gets Innovated On
Clearly there are all kinds of different levels of sophistication that can come with these sorts of developments. In fact, two plus years after Yahoo's call to action, things still seem relatively elementary. Rapportive displays data uniquely well but Etacts displays more data. This new Google Calendar integration with Gmail offers some visibility into your and your contacts' availability, but it doesn't tell you what you've got scheduled at a given time. Etacts offers inferior invitation sending but has a whole set of reminder and follow up features that Gmail doesn't offer natively. And Yahoo Mail more closely ties into Facebook than any other email, something millions of people are sure to enjoy.
So while all the kids rant and rave about Twitter, Facebook, augmented reality, iPads and location based social networking, don't let them deny: email can still be very exciting.