Can getting social make email better?

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?


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