Corporate Email as Social Network

There’s an interesting article in the New York Times entitled “Inbox 2.0: Yahoo and Google to Turn E-Mail Into a Social Network” by Saul Hansell.

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.

I don’t have a lot of detail from Google, but I’ve heard from several executives that this is their plan. When I talked recently with Joe Kraus, who runs Google’s OpenSocial project, he said: “We believe there are opportunities with iGoogle to make it more social.” And when I pressed him about the relationship between the social aspects of iGoogle and Gmail versus Orkut or some other social network, he said, “It is much easier to extend an existing habit than to create a brand.”

It’s an interesting idea, because it is reusing a relationship matrix that already exists, rather then relying on training and changing the way people communicate. Basically it will happen without you noticing it. I wonder what specific users relationship diagrams will tell management about them.

Whatever they do, it’s will need to be adaptive. Email networks are ever changing as people move from project to project, and even position to position. The results may yield big dividends in the corporate environs.

Of course, you have to wonder how well corporations will deal with social networking via their email systems, when most of them can’t seem to keep the spam out.

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