Google has unveiled a few changes to Gmail, describing the updates as “small tweaks.” Indeed the changes seem like fixes to some of the minor annoyances with the email service. Gmail will now have fewer annoying pop-ups when you receive an error message, for example. Even better, you’ll get a warning when there’s a typo in an email address, such you left out the “.” in “.com.”
Perhaps the most interesting and important new feature is the ability to turn off the “auto-save to contacts.”
Gmail’s ability to automatically save every email address you send messages to has long been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes it easier to find contact information, particularly when that contact is obscure or infrequent. The feature then auto-completes when you type people’s name or address. But on the other hand, when every address from every person you’ve ever emailed ends up there, it can make Contacts cluttered.
Now, you can turn that feature off, giving you more control over whose address is stored there. To do so, go to Mail settings page and toggle the button under the General tab.
Having better control over your Contacts is helpful in terms of organization, no doubt. But it may also represent an important shift as Google adds more social features. One of the longstanding problems with a Google (social) network is that it’s been a mish-mash of relationships – the differences between who you want in a professional address book versus a personal address book, the differences of who you follow on Buzz or on Reader and who’s an email contact.
More finely tuned control of Contacts may be one “small tweak,” to use Google’s words, as it moves towards a purported social service.