This post is about a new Gmail feature that lets you send an email to your Google+ connections even if you don’t have their email address. People are upset and they’re tossing that “P” word around like it’s an inalienable right or something. But let’s think this through before we get out the pitchforks.
Here’s how it works. You go to Gmail and start typing a name – but whoops – you realize that you don’t have Dima’s email address. Dima is one of your connections on Google+. He’s left numerous comments on your post about creating the world’s largest chocolate bunny for Easter and now you want to share the full plan with him secretly. No problem. Type Dima in the “To” field and he pops up. Click his face and the email will go to him. You can’t see his email address unless he replies. Once he does that, the circle is complete and he becomes one of your regular contacts so you can easily contact him every step of the giant bunny way.
But what about Dima’s privacy! What if he doesn’t want your email about where to get 6 tons of chocolate? Then he shouldn’t have participated in the conversation on Google+ in the first place. Seriously, folks. When did we decide that contacting someone through social media is less of a privacy invasion then sending them an email. I think it’s the other way around. An email goes into my box and waits for me until I’m ready to act. A Twitter DM pings my mobile phone. That causes me to stop what I’m doing, find my phone, read the message and then I feel compelled to respond right away. Social media is immediate. When a chat box pops on Facebook it’s rude to ignore it. When an email comes in at 6 am, I can respond at 2 pm and nobody cares.
I think this is less of an issue than forcing people to use their Google+ accounts to post and comment on YouTube. Over there, I might want to be someone other than who I am. It’s a creative forum and I’m okay with people pretending to be someone else as long as it’s not for nefarious purposes (read Andy’s piece on Yelp). But this, isn’t that. This is an easy way of taking that insane, badly laid out, hard to save conversation you were having with someone on Google+ and moving it to the easy to read, easy to save email format.
It’s a good thing, people. Use it.