Given the attention Google receives, including from techies, investors, and media-types, it is surprising to see how little attention and analysis there has been regarding Google’s integration of Google Talk (or GIM) with GMail.
In general, Google uses sophisticated models and data-mining techniques to deliver more relevant advertising to users. Increasingly, however, the company is microscoping those techniques down to a user-specific level. The bait to tie advertising to a specific user (e.g., me), rather than a general type of user (e.g., people who perform a search for “glass + composer + ‘tour dates'”), was/is GMail. To use the service, people log in and have a specific account. In its initial form, e-mails were scanned and relevant advertising provided.
But that crude method, which was and to some degree remains the standard method, only provides a one-dimensional (i.e., e-mail) information/revenue stream. Steadily, Google has increased the number of services/revenue streams that improve/adjust when a user is logged into what was his or her GMail account and is now more generally referred to as a Google account. These includes News.Google, Base.Google, Images.Google, Groups.Google, and (Search.)Google.
While the Google (nee GMail) account was, and remains, the bait for attracting users to create trackable/information-creating accounts, GIM’s incorporation into GMail–which is done adequately, although not impressively, well–is the hook that keeps users logged in, trackable, and able to be advertised to in a personal (rather than customizable or typed) manner. That’s because GIM requires you to be logged in constantly and because there are people who only access their e-mail account when checking for new messages (as opposed to running it continuously and being notified when there is e-mail). The combination of the two is a significant barrier to Google’s efforts to collect user-specific data, but a barrier that is overcome because of GIM’s always-logged-in character. Important to remember is that once a user remains logged in the other personalizable Google services are activated, thereby generating not just the GIM and GMail information/revenue streams, but also a number of others (e.g., News.Google). That one GIM/GMail door opens up many worlds of new information gathering and advertising potential.
In fact, GIM’s integration with GMail may be one of the most important new products/developments the company has rolled out, and yet it met with little discussion and fanfare from the tech and investment community.