This past week, Google has been busy launching a plethora of new features to existing services. It's almost like Google is celebrating the 12 days of Christmas by giving us a new feature every day.
Starting with Gmail, you have no doubt noticed some new features such as contact groups, vacation auto-responder and Gmail Mobile. All three are welcome additions and continue to bring value to Google's webmail service.
Contact groups let you simply email "Friends" rather than "email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com". Groups are an excellent idea, but it would still be nice to have the option of choosing recipients from a list. Lots of times when forwarding email, people like to choose contacts on an message to message basis -- rather than creating a new group or typing individual email addresses manually.
Vacation auto-responder is a feature that Yahoo already offers, it lets you inform everybody or just the people in your contact list of your absence when they attempt to send you a message. This feature seems a bit ironic -- isn't point of webmail that you can take it with you? In any case, I'm glad they added it to their growing list of features.
And last but not least in the Gmail department, their Mobile service lets you check your email from mobile devices by connecting to the special Gmail web address -- m.gmail.com. It automatically formats the page to look good with the device you are using to access the site. It will be nice if Google Calendar is integrated with Gmail and is accessible through this mobile service so that we can take our contacts, email and calendar with us wherever we go.
Google also launched a new "Music Search" capability which makes finding information about favourite artist simple. Things like lyrics, ratings and even where to buy a CD is now at your fingertips. When you search for an artist, relevant music matches appear in a onebox format at the top of the search results similar to both Yahoo and MSN. From there you can drill down to find out almost anything about what you are searching for such as lyrics, album ratings, and even information on where to purchase CD's.
Google Personalized Homepage API was given to developers this week, allowing them to extend the Personalized Homepage by adding useful modules -- instead of just simple RSS feeds. In my previous post, I mentioned a module that I wrote, you can add it to your Google by pasting the URL http://base.google.com/base/items?oid=6247163394761210999 into your "create a section" box. Once some of these modules people are creating are approved by Google, they will appear in the directory of modules which only contains five examples so far.
Two new Firefox extensions were also released by Google. Blogger Web Comments lets you view or add blogger comments about the page you are currently viewing. The second extension they released to the US only is called "Google Safe Browsing for Firefox". Basically it detects if the page you are visiting could be involved in some sort of phishing scam what is designed to steal your personal information.
In other news, Google is reportadly in exclusive talks with AOL to purchase 5% of the company for $1 billion dollars. After talks that Microsoft had the upper-hand, this was definitely a surprise. On the news, Google shares surged to over $430 per share.
This past week Google has given us some early Christmas presents to play with. I wonder what Santa will bring? Giving calendars as a gift tends to be popular this time of year, wouldn't you say?