Email is our natural social network. Our email contacts are already organized by work, professional, and personal friends. Email could easily adopt some of the useful social networking features to become a more powerful business network and collaboration environment.
The New York Times says "Inbox 2.0 Yahoo and Google to Turn Email into a Social Network"
Ignore Orkut, OpenSocial, Yahoo Mash and Yahoo 360. Google and Yahoo have come up with new and very similar plans to respond to the challenge from MySpace and Facebook: They hope to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services (iGoogle and MyYahoo) into social networks.
Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people. That’s why the social networks offer to import the e-mail address books of new users to jump-start their list of friends. Yahoo and Google realize that they have this information and can use it to build their own services that connect people to their contacts.
Om Malik was an early and vocal proponent of making email the basis of your social network. His story "Google and Yahoo Finally Get The Memo: Email Is The Social Environment"
I had talked about this very same concept back in September: Is Email The Ultimate Social Environment? While Yahoo and Google are still talking about it, one start-up, Xoopit has already done it, and another one, Xobni, is well on its way to making that a reality.
Larry Dignan at ZDnet has it right in my opinion. "Social Networking: Quietly being subsumed by your everyday apps"
Social networking features will be dropped into corporate applications to the point where they become commonplace. A company like Trampoline Systems is an early social networking mover in the enterprise, but it’s not a reach to figure the startup will be acquired by a larger player someday. Social networking won’t be a hot topic as much as its just something you do. Don’t be surprised if social networking is built into Microsoft Outlook at some point in the future.
Email is where we work, communicate, organize, establish relationships, seek new business, approve things, and ask questions. It is the natural place to leverage our social network and collaborate to get things done.
LinkedIn is great as a business network. Why aren't those features built into our Email Contacts? Wouldn't it be great to be able to find anyone and connect with them through our existing network of contacts? Why not have pictures attached to each email contact?
Collaboration and Social Networking should be in Email - Prior to joining Microsoft I worked with Ray Ozzie at Groove Networks. Groove is a cool P2P collaboration environment where you can set up secure workspaces focused on a specific topic or project. Participants can be invited into the workspace where all the information about a project is stored and kept up to date. Groove is a great tool for managing projects.
The problem is that people LOVE email and spend most of their working time there. Most people don't want to leave email and jump into a separate application to collaborate on projects. Email is where they naturally communicate and collaborate.
Social networks are another isolated island of information. I use Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and Flickr. They are fun, but not very productive. Why not combine the best of all of them in one place where I naturally work...in email?
Social Networks are fun, but I want a Business Network. Isn't that what Inbox 2.0 should be about? What do you think?