Think of the new Gmail/Google+ features as part of the identity jigsaw

Gmail and Google+

Last week, Google announced the addition of an interesting new feature to Gmail – the ability for people you know on Google+ to email you even if they don’t have your email address. And vice-versa.

I first heard about it through seeing posts and reports galore about “how to disable Google’s new Gmail feature,” clearly suggesting that an awful lot of people see this as something really bad and to be avoided.

In fact, I’m ok with the idea as explained by Google, that enables anyone in my circles on Google+ being able to send me an email just by typing my name and using the result offered by Google.

And crucially, says Google…

[…] Your email address isn’t visible to a Google+ connection unless you send that person an email, and likewise, that person’s email address isn’t visible to you unless they send you an email.

I’m quite happy with that.

Interestingly, there’s an aspect of this that is much more significant than the simple matter of exchanging emails with people you’re connected to on Google+.

In a post yesterday at re/code, guest writer Hunter Walk has an intriguing idea:

Here’s what I think the integration of Gmail and G+ messaging is really about: Making communications about people and permissions, rather than possession of contact info.

I like this future-thinking as he expands on that idea:

[…] Current generations of kids aren’t going to have to worry about knowing your phone number or email or street address. They’ll be able to press your name or picture, and depending on the app or need, will initiate a text, call, delivery, whatever. Twitter has been experimenting with various DM permissioning. And why do you think Snapchat’s user base didn’t care much when phone numbers leaked? Because the phone number is the least personal data on a phone, compared to your text messages, photos or other app data.

My bet is that a year from now, G+ will be much more about communications, with content sharing as part of the interaction, rather than a social stream. If you were building Gmail and G+ from scratch today, they’d be the same product. And that’s the logic behind the messaging permission changes.

Project that out further and think about this as one potential element in identity verification. Not just your G+ profile or Gmail address, but the whole concept of verifying “name + picture = you” via rich sources of information in trusted databases.

It brings to my mind something that already happened to someone last month where his Facebook profile was accepted by the TSA in the US as validation of identity.

This is a big canvas that paints a huge picture that is one piece of the digital jigsaw that is identity and verifying it, balancing privacy and a lot more.

Lots to figure out.

Get used to “Ok Google”


Earlier this year, Google announced a new feature for search – conduct a search with your voice in the Chrome browser.

To conduct a conversational search, you’d fire up Google Search; if you saw a little microphone symbol in the search box, you could click on it to activate the function, and then speak your search phrase in conversational English (or any of the other supported languages).

When I tried it in May, I thought it was a bold step by Google in making everything easier in how you interact with your computer for conducting a routine task like a search.

Google has now taken this to another level by doing away with the need to click anything – now, you just talk – via an extension for Chrome called Google Voice Hotword that works on Chrome versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Once you’ve installed it, you’ll be able to do everything re your search just by speaking – without clicking anything. All you do is give the extension permission to use your microphone. You do that once only. And you can revoke permission any time you want to.

How easy is it to do a Google Voice search? Take a look:

At the moment, this cool feature works only on not any other geographic search location. I tried it at – no, it didn’t work. And it works only in English for now.

There’s a little more information in Google’s concise announcement on Google+ with a simple video. And here’s another video, one I did earlier: just a straight search for a news story.

Saying “Ok Google” to initiate an action is similar to what you do with Google Glass to record a video, do a search, take a picture, ask a question, etc. With that device, you say “Ok Glass.”

I can see “Ok Google” becoming the default for interacting with Google, via whatever device. It’s much more to do with what you want to do rather than the device you’re using to do it.

And it’s very easy to get used to.

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Google makes it easier for people to find and amplify trusted content


Of two new Google+ features announced yesterday by Google – authorship attribution and embedding posts – the latter caught my imagination straightaway.

If you want to embed a post published publicly on Google+, you can now embed that content in your own blog or website by simply adding a few pieces of code.

Making it happen is quite easy:

[…] If you’re a site owner and you’d like to embed a post, simply find a public post on Google+, and select ‘Embed post’ from the drop-down menu. Copy the code, add it to your web page, and you’re all set!

And here’s what an embedded Google+ post looks like:

(If, for any reason, you don’t see the G+ post above, see it on Google+.)

It’s a great idea as the embedded post will also include all the conversational and sharing aspects you get from the post within Google+, so making it easier to connect content and the conversations that happen in various places across the social web.

The only slight hesitation I have is wondering what more proliferation of the same content in multiple locations may mean for SEO, Google page rank, etc; and whether content consumers may end up getting confused with all the different places they’ll find the same content, and the different looks and feels of that content.

Sign in with Google

As for author attribution, it’s a topic that is becoming increasingly important as we seek to find content we trust – often meaning written by authors we trust – in the ocean of stuff competing for our attention.

Says Google:

[…] We’re integrating Google+ Sign-In with Google’s Authorship program. So if you sign in to with Google, for instance, the articles you publish will now be associated with your Google+ profile automatically.

Not requiring you to take action to enable this is a perfect way of automatically rolling this out potentially to all 80 million blogs on the hosted WordPress service worldwide (and to the hosted TypePad service on which this is also enabled).

If you run a self-hosted WordPress blog, a plugin for this functionality will no doubt come soon.

Notwithstanding the slight hesitation I mentioned earlier, I see these as welcome moves to enable content (and its creator) to become more trusted, and to be more accessible (and so, more amplifiable).

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Innovative co-branding (and risk-taking) with Android KitKat

Android KitKatThere’s a lot going on in the mobile devices market these days.

News about new iPhones from Apple. Much talk about Microsoft buying Nokia’s phone business and speculation about the impact on the smartphone market. The forthcoming release of a new version of Android, the mobile operating system from Google.

These are usually topics of keen interest to the business and tech media and online communities, geeks and enthusiasts.

But an announcement on September 3 changes all that, where a mobile operating system and devices that run it will become as known about as brands of soup, fizzy drinks and chocolate wafer bars.

Google is about to launch the next version of Android, numerically version 4.4 and informally (and unofficially) called Key Lime Pie.

That new version is coming but it won’t be known as Key Lime Pie. Instead it will be called Android KitKat.

It’s a name that’s about to get wide and mainstream attention in major markets worldwide as a result of a branding and marketing tie-up that Google and Swiss-based food and beverage conglomerate Nestlé have made with the launch of the new mobile OS and a new version of the KitKat chocolate wafer bar also called 4.4.

The confectionary will come with Android branding on the wrappers and include vouchers for Google’s Nexus 7 tablet and Google Play credit in the markets where the promotion is launching, according to the press release:

[…] more than 50 million specially branded KitKat bars will be available in 19 countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Japan, Dubai, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The packs will lead consumers to the website where they will have the opportunity to win prizes including a limited number of Google Nexus 7 tablets, and credits to spend in Google Play, Google’s online store for apps, games, music, movies, books and more.

A small number of Android robot-shaped KitKat bars will also be offered as prizes in selected markets.

This is an imaginative idea, one that will potentially give Google’s Android wider brand recognition that isn’t focused just on the tech. It will likely make Android (and, by extension, mobile devices that run it) look very cool.

It’s a potential big win for Nestlé with its KitKat brand that is a leader in many markets, as well as supporting  its wider business goals:

[…] Nestlé’s branding partnership with Google is the company’s latest move in its ambition to leverage digital technology and online content to get closer to its consumers to better understand and cater to their preferences.

There are risks as well as rewards, as some commentators are pointing out, eg, should one of these two brands have a recall or be involved in some kind of scandal, it will most likely taint the other. There’s also the risk of activist protest, eg, Greenpeace’s attack on Nestlé over palm oil production for KitKat in 2010 (and think about what happened to Shell at the Belgian Grand Prix F1 race last week).

Risks indeed and I’d expect those to have been carefully considered and balanced as part of both parties’ risk assessment before agreeing the deal. But for an innovative approach to co-branding by two unlikely-looking partners, I think it’s a great move.

And I like Nestlé’s informal, almost irreverent, approach to what they’re doing, as this video indicates. Heh, ‘KitKat 4.4′ – a moniker that fits well with the ambition for digital that they outlined as it cements a tech connection with the Android version number.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

What do you think? An imaginative partnership, or brand damage waiting in the wings?

In any case, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the new KitKat packaging in my local supermarket.

Chrome ready for the post-PC era

Browse beaten

The map presents a dramatic perspective of the changing fortunes in the desktop browser market.The line graph makes the rise of Google Chrome even clearer over the past five years.

I’d say Chrome has a rosy future as the post-PC era develops – I see the mobile Chrome more and more on Android devices. Early days of course, but Google has patience.

Reshared post from +The Economist

Google’s Chrome browser, which celebrates its fifth birthday next month, has captured much of the territory of older browsers and is now responsible for about 43% of all the web traffic generated by the world’s desktop computers. When Chrome was launched the dominant browser was Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE), with a 68% share—it is now down to just 25%

Post imported by Google+Blog for WordPress.

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The magic of Google

M&S beltI bought a belt yesterday from Marks and Spencer‘s online store. A pretty routine activity – online shopping is indeed pretty routine these days – where I chose the item, authorized the payment and will see my purchase sometime today.

It wasn’t long after that virtual trip to M&S online that I noticed that nearly all the ads I was seeing on other websites I visited were for belts. Not only belts, but Marks and Spencer belts.

As I remarked on Twitter, “I bought a belt earlier from @marksandspencer online. Now, ads on every website I visits are for belts :)”

It got me thinking, though, about how much Google knows about you from your behaviour online. Not in a sinister or negative way but from a positive and useful perspective where your journeys across the social web in search for things of interest enable Google to serve up content that may match what you’re looking for.

In fact, Google knows a huge amount about you from your online activities, not only on the social web. Stuart Henshall posted this thought-provoking graphic that illustrates in a simple example actually what Google does know about you and your online activities.

What Google Knows

I tend to see metrics like this in a benign light more than an alarming one, notwithstanding the constant revelations that suggest you can’t trust anyone these days.

I suppose it’s mainly because I’ve yet to see or experience anything that makes me believe I cannot trust the likes of Google at all to safeguard my personal information. My conspiracy-theory friends (yes, I do have some of those) think I’m terribly naive.

But if you employ a great deal of common sense in your risk assessment – how you behave online and what you do with the information about you that you can control – you should be able to sleep calmly at night.

All that said, though, how do you feel about what Google knows about you?

(via the Wall Street Journal via Marketing Pilgrim)

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