There’s lots of chat this morning about Yahoo and Google’s plans to make email more social — whatever that means. Brad Garlinghouse of Yahoo was apparently talking to Saul Hansell of the New York Times, who wrote about it on his Bits blog (he’s the technology editor at the paper as well), and Brad wants to make email into a sort of social hub. In effect, it sounds like he wants to make Yahoo’s email into a Facebook-style platform.

234235471.jpgThis makes Mike Arrington sad, since it’s yet another sign that Yahoo can’t seem to get its you-know-what together and focus on a single thing at a time. Yahoo 360, Mash, etc. But wait — isn’t Brad the guy behind the infamous “peanut butter” manifesto, which was all about Yahoo spreading itself too thin? So maybe he actually has gotten the go-ahead from Jerry Yang and the rest of the Yahoo brain trust to try this email thing. My only problem with Brad’s idea is that for me, email is pretty close to broken. And it’s not just spam — although that’s a big part of it. It just doesn’t work properly somehow. It’s all out of sync, and it’s hard to keep things straight (although Gmail’s default “conversation” threading helps, I find) and it’s not integrated with enough other things. Is Yahoo going to fix all that, or is it just going to pop up profiles and miscellaneous crap whenever someone emails me?

If it’s the latter, then no thank you. If Yahoo or Google can find a way to make email relevant, to make it more efficient, more like RSS maybe, then I’ll think about it. My other concern is that for people below the age of 25 or so, email is a virtually non-existent form of communication. Making email a social platform might work for fogeys like me, but what about the next generation? Shouldn’t Yahoo and Google be thinking about that too?

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

4 Responses to “Can getting social make email better?”
  1. “My other concern is that for people below the age of 25 or so, email is a virtually non-existent form of communication.”

    Is that really true? I mean, I know everyone uses facebook/myspace/etc, but I’ve never had the impression that the youngsters (I’m on the cusp of youngsterhood myself–barely) don’t use email.

  2. Oh, I guess you are right. I just saw this: http://www.slate.com/id/2177969/

  3. Well, Jake, all I can go by is my 18-year-old daughter and most of her friends — and a number of twentysomethings I’ve spoken to as well.

    For them, email is a last resort that barely ever gets checked or responded to — preferred methods of communication start with cellphone, then text message, then IM, then Facebook.

    Email is way down at the bottom — right next to “write a letter” :-)

  4. Making another Facebook isn’t the opportunity. Doing things that leverage all of the information stored within email to figure out how to enable more relevant and powerful interactions – that’s a huge opportunity. People already know who they are connected to within their email contacts. Providing profiles for those people is much less interesting than understanding things about the nature of your communications with them. More here: http://www.emaildashboard.com/2007/11/inbox-20—emai.html

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