Gmail Priority Inbox Lays Foundation for Facebook Fight

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-09-01 Print this article Print

Yesterday I discussed how Google's Gmail Priority Inbox feature is aimed at combating Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 by providing a more efficient messaging experience.

I still believe that is one of Google's goals with Priority Inbox. I use Exchange 2007 for work e-mail and Microsoft simply doesn't offer this sort of filtering by importance or even preference. It's not in Office 2010 or SharePoint 2010 either, from what I can tell.

I also argued that Priority Inbox may not be as useful for consumers because I believe most consumers that don't work at Google use Facebook, not Gmail, to exchange content. That's a good segue for the post I want to talk about.

While I argued Microsoft was the main target of the feature, Forrester Research analyst Augie Ray argued that Google is adding relevance filtering for Gmail to pave the way for the forthcoming Google Me social network.

Ray wrote:

More people, more apps, more Facebook-enabled sites, more places, more status updates--it all adds up to a cacophony of voices vying for our attention. I recently missed a friend's announcement of the birth of his child on Facebook--that important news was lost in an ocean of viral videos, places check ins, and summer vacation photo albums. This is why the new Gmail feature may provide a hint at what is up Google's social sleeve. ...

He added later:

Will Google tackle the problem (and opportunity) of relevance in social media? If Google can make our inboxes more relevant, why not our Facebook and Twitter feeds?

I'm going to try to advance Ray's point. Priority Inbox could be one of the tools Google uses to set its Google Me social network apart from Facebook and Twitter, providing relevancy filters those social services lack.

So, you might ask, if this is Google's intent, why is it putting the tool in Gmail? I believe Gmail will form the foundation for Google Me, much the way it forms the foundation for Google Buzz.

Gmail, and Google Accounts especially, as Jeremiah Owyang will tell anyone, is its own social network.

It just needs to be socialized a bit more for its 180 million or so users. The world doesn't need another social network per se.

So while Google has millions of loyal users, I'd be surprised if it took Zynga games, Slide apps, Jambool apps, Angstro and SocialDeck and tossed them all up in a big salad bowl without leveraging the large user base Gmail has to offer.

Or else the company is just building a walled garden in an already largely siloed Web apps portfolio, putting further separation among its millions of Google Account subscribers.

This is, I suspect, exactly what Google Me is geared to prevent. And if we are to favor Ray's point, Priority Inbox provides a great tool to help differentiate Google's social network from the others in the market. |

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