Google (and Gmail) is Google+

File this one under the Just Be Aware category. Also, yes, this is more sour grapes about Google from me. You should be used to this by now.

Google has announced, and The Verge has reported and clarified, a new “feature” that will be introduced into Gmail in the coming days. It basically boils down to this:

  • Google+ is now even more integrated into Gmail
  • When you type in a person’s name to add them to an email, Google will recommend people with that name from Google+ … both people in your circles, and people outside of your circles
  • Now anyone can send a message to your Gmail account
  • If you do not have that person in your circles, it will be filtered into the Social category
  • This behavior (people being able to just search for a name and send a message to your Gmail Social category) is opt-out

People who know and love Google and Google+ might not have an issue with this, and that is fine. Everyone is free to make their own choices on what services they use and how they use them.

However, this is another case where I am glad I’ve moved my personal email off of Gmail and to somewhere and someone else (iCloud at the moment).

The consolidation of every Google property into Google+ freaks me out as a user. The fact that they make such things opt-out instead of opt-in is just another case of being willing to burn down everything to try to beat Facebook at their own creepiness game.

John Gruber pretty much echoed my first thoughts with his short commentary:

This has to be a mistake. Surely Google will change this from opt-out to opt-in.

But the more I thought about it, the more I agree with Marco Arment on the overall theme of many of the decisions Google has been making not just with Google+, but with every single product that they own:

I don’t know why anyone’s surprised. To be clear, for anyone who thinks Google is some benevolent, selfless entity handing out free services to everyone out of the goodness of its heart:

Google’s leadership, threatened by the attention and advertising relevance of Facebook, is betting the company on Google+ at all costs.

Truth be told, Google is free to do this if they like and people are free to continue to use Google services knowing full well what Google is trying to do. That’s the beauty of having choices in this market (and luckily, we do have choices).

However, this is another nail in the coffin between myself and Google. I’m hoping that they will enable an option in their Google Apps for Education admin interface for me to switch the default to either Circles or No one. At that point, people can make their own decisions on how they want people to be able to find them.

In the end, maybe that is my main beef: the default setting. Defaults matter. Defaults, many times, say something about your company.

Making this opt-out tells me just a little bit more about where Google is heading.