New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

Summary: This is definitely not the next Buzz or Wave...this is an immediately useful tool, especially for Google Apps users.

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Google has been widely criticized for its inability to create a social media platform that didn't either play a distant second fiddle to Facebook or violate user privacy in some way that makes PR and marketing types break out in a cold sweat. At the same time, though, Google's core services (search, Gmail, and Docs) get better and better. The introduction of the new Gmail People Widget applies some of the most useful principles of social media and leverages Google's expertise in search to improve on this core service rather than trying to co-opt Facebook and Twitter.

According to Google's Gmail blog,

The people widget surfaces content from friends, family and colleagues that is already available to you but may be hard to find and makes it easier to connect with them...Next to every email message you can now see contextual information about the people in that conversation including recent emails you received from them, relevant Buzz posts, shared documents and calendar events. You also have quick access to a variety of ways to communicate with individuals, start a group chat or schedule a meeting with groups of people.

This hasn't received an extraordinary amount of media attention yet, but it actually provides a significant incentive for people to adopt Google Apps, where this sort of contextual information is particularly helpful in fostering the collaboration that makes Google Apps so appealing.

One of the more useful add-ons I've found for my email is a service called Rapportive which provides information about email contacts from various social feeds right inline with your email. Gmail's People Widget takes that approach but localizes it to work and conversations with your contacts.

If Google can stick with layering useful social tools onto their Apps and search, they might just beat Facebook at its own game, at least within social business, instead of building new tools that people neither like nor trust. I'm not saying Google should stop making innovative tools, but they already have a very powerful toolset for enterprises and individual users; improvement and innovation within those tools can yield far more interesting results than their other social forays have to date.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Google

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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28 comments
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  • Are you sure you want to back this?

    you where just as excited about most of Googl'es others attempts at stuff that just up and disappeared overnight.

    ;)
    Will Pharaoh
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Will Pharaoh
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      upinson
  • How do you access this?

    Interesting overview, but we're all left wondering: how do we add this? It's not in General Settings and it's not in Labs.
    axup
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @axup It's supposed to be rolling out over the next 2 weeks. It'll probably just show up.
      -Hinano-
  • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

    I don't want this!!! trun this off!!
    Hasam1991
  • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

    article fail.

    failed to adequately explain this and failed to inform if it was an add-on or extension, in beta, or even currently available
    parkerjh@...
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @parkerjh@...
      http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=gmail+people+widget
      -Hinano-
      • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

        @-Hinano- Thanks but this is the sort of information the article should have had included.
        athynz
  • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

    Seriously how do I turn this off??? I don't want people seeing my stuff!!! another reason to leave google..
    Hasam1991
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991
      Do you even have any idea on what you're commenting about?
      Droid101
      • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

        @Droid101
        NO but with BUZZ people in my contact list could see stuff I did not want them to see... so I'm worried lol
        Hasam1991
      • Hasam1991 is not being Paranoid

        @Droid101
        Hasam may have a point. Google has repeatedly failed in developing a usable social service. Thats why they try to make their new services a part of their existing popular services without permission from the users. That is is not the only thing they do without permission from their users, but thats another story. The last time they added a social layer to Gmail with Buzz, it rubbed almost all google users the wrong way. So they have a reason to be vary of the latest Goog Machination. Who knows, this contextual information about a person mentioned in my emails may get linked (afterall its a 'social' feature) to the same person who's also my contact and he/she may know (and see) who I've been talking to about him/her. See?
        When it comes to Google's social ambitions, be careful, be very very careful.
        Hotmail Alias
      • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

        @Droid101 Given the failure with BUZZ I fully see his point. It would be an interesting add on provided there were controls in place to allow users to decide what info they want out there.
        athynz
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991 Not to be rude, but I'm not sure you understand what this is and what it does.
      chrismiller262
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991 The sky is not falling. If you don't want people seeing what you're doing you should either not post it or don't do it...not that hard.
      beckerist@...
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991: Yeah I suggest you actually read what it is and what it does before bashing it:

      http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/introducing-people-widget.html

      In short:

      "Next to every email message you can now see contextual information about the people in that conversation including recent emails you received from them, relevant Buzz posts, shared documents and calendar events."
      bradavon
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991

      Please inform yourself what this new widget is exactly doing! And dont let paranoid people confuse you about Google! Please!
      Watchman247
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @Hasam1991 I agree - hopefully it will be something we have some control over (i.e. what information gets revealed).
      athynz
  • Underwhelming

    The people widget has not received much attention because there really is nothing terribly exciting about it.

    It is taking functionality that Rapportive and Xobni add ons already had and introduced it into their production. It is increasing lock-in because it only incorporates other Google components.
    Your Non Advocate
    • RE: New Gmail People Widget takes email to the next social level

      @facebook@...: Except those two services only work on computer you're specifically installed the software/add-on/extension. This will work on any computer you can access Gmail.com on.
      bradavon