has announced the availability of a new Application Programming Interface (API) that allows 3rd party services to offer contextually relevant content and functionality inside the email interface of Google Apps Gmail users. It's just the latest sign that the email sector is heating up again.Google
If you've noticed the way that certain Google properties like YouTube and Picassa have been treated differently when linked-to inside an email viewed in Gmail (both have resulted in video or image previews for the past few months) then you've got some idea how other applications can now relate to the contents of your mail. Now imagine other parts of an email being built on top of by a developer ecosystem. The potential here is very exciting.
Email remains a rich and important platform for communication, now Google hopes it will become a platform for development too. The API will for now be limited to Gmail for Google Apps, where it can be deployed to entire groups by an Apps customer via the Google Apps Marketplace. A related move in the consumer version of Gmail came this Spring, when the company launched OAuth for IMAP. Earlier this morning the company announced the availability of new automating scripts for Google Apps as well.
Ten services have been selected as launch partners and offer all the more indication of the possibilities.
In Google's words:
Several new contextual gadget integrations for Gmail are available to Google Apps customers in the Apps Marketplace today:
- AwayFind lets you mark certain contacts or message topics as ‘Urgent’ and then alerts you via phone, SMS or IM when relevant messages arrive.
- Kwaga displays social network profiles and lists recent email exchanges with people you correspond with.
- Gist brings together information from across the web about people you’re corresponding with, providing rich person and company profiles, news and updates.
- Pixetell detects email links to video messages created with Pixetell’s video software and lets you preview, comment on, and share those videos without leaving your inbox.
- Smartsheet lets you access and update entries in Smartsheet’s sales pipeline and project management tool.
- Xobni, Rapportive, Manymoon, Newmind Group, and BillFLO have also launched their own contextual gadget integrations.
Email is Hot
Email may be tried and true, but it's also a hot area for development these days. Good old Hotmail topped the news yesterday with a new version, for example.
Over at Yahoo! there have been Mail APIs for years, though they've primarily been used internally to add new social features to Yahoo! Mail. That may change soon as well, however, as Yahoo's Eran Hammer-Lahav, celebrated community leader in developing the OAuth mashup protocol, has recently shifted his focus to doing open standards development under the Yahoo! Mail department. Access restrictions to the Yahoo! Mail API were just lifted last month.
Disclosure: Microsoft, the owner of Hotmail, is a sponsor of ReadWriteEnterprise.