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Google have announced an update to GMail allowing anyone to send a message directly to your inbox without knowing your email address.

It's an interesting idea, but I think Google may have missed a trick.

The GMail update is offering tighter integration with Google's social network. If you have a Google+ profile someone can now email you directly by using your profile name in the To field of an email. They don't get to see your email address but will have a direct line to your inbox.

There are a few things to note:

  • You can turn the feature off, or limit who can contact you in this fashion. The default is on, of course!
  • If you ignore the unsolicited message the sender can never contact you this way again. You also have the option to report it as spam/abuse.
  • It is only available via the desktop (web) version of GMail. I guess this will change to include the mobile app at some point too.
  • If you reply to the message you will send your email address!
The auto-suggest now shows G+ profiles

The auto-suggest now shows G+ profiles

I personally don't see this feature as a huge privacy issue. Nothing extra is initially being shared with the sender.

Most of the other social networks have similar features -- Google have just taken it a stage further but allowing messages to hit your inbox directly. Other networks would simply email/notify you there is a personal/direct message waiting.

Putting aside the privacy argument, I think Google have missed a trick..... If I reply to a message sent to my Google+ profile I send my email address and the conversation becomes a normal email. Why not allow a conversation to continue back and forth only using our G+ profile? There are occasions where I would like to have a message exchange with someone but don't see the need to send them my email address.

Perhaps there are technical issues (possibly with the mobile mail App) but having a G+ message exchanging via email without exchanging email addresses would be useful.

The Gmail update will roll out in the coming few days -- when it activates on your account you will receive an appropriate message advising on your privacy options. See the GMail blog on emailing Google+ profiles for all the information. The official GMail help page is also available.

Your thoughts?

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