Social Networking Meets Web Mail?

Were either Google or Yahoo to roll its vast network of Web mail users into a social network, allowing users to display personal profiles and connect with others, either could challenge Facebook and MySpace nearly overnight.

Either or both would instantly have a user base more significant than the social networking giants have, and would also, like IBM Lotus Connections, have the advantage of an e-mail platform base.

The idea comes from a Yahoo official who sparked speculation on the topic in the analyst community, revealing to the New York Times that the company was looking into how to improve the value of Yahoo Mail by making it more social.

Brad Garlinghouse, senior vice president of communications and communities for Yahoo, told the Times that Yahoo was working on ranking the value of mail senders and linking to profiles of contacts in an address book.

The idea is to create some awareness in the e-mail platform of the relationships between users, or the social graphs. Ideally, an e-mail recipient would be able to click on a link to view sender profiles.

To read more about Lotus Connections, click here.

Yahoo’s Garlinghouse described this as part of an initiative called Inbox 2.0. Similarly, Google Director of Product Management Joe Kraus said there were opportunities to make iGoogle pages more social. Analysts embraced this plan for enterprises.

IDC Analyst Rachel Happe told eWEEK Nov. 19 that turning e-mail platforms into social networking platforms makes a lot of sense because e-mail platforms are where people store information about their connections. Geoff Bock, an analyst for the Gilbane Group, agreed, noting that subjects, folders and threads in e-mail clients represent business networks, which are “all grist for the social networking mill.”

Gmail, for example, collects message threads into a single record, which cuts down on the message clutter that’s so prevalent in IBM Lotus Notes Mail and Microsoft Outlook, Bock wrote in a blog post Nov. 19.

Lotus Connections, meanwhile, includes a Web-based enterprise directory and a tag cloud that relates to communities within the enterprise. Google and Yahoo could embrace such Web 2.0 technologies, applying similar location and tagging technologies to their Web mail applications.

Next page: A Social Networking River Runs Through Your Web Mail

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