Google has launched a website called "Email Intervention" which asks visitors to "save your friends from outdated email." A YouTube video on the site suggests email addresses can become "embarrassingly out-of-date" and should be laid to rest like floppy disks, portable CD players, VHS cassettes, or scrunchies.
Google's Gmail passed AOL as the third most popular U.S. consumer email service in 2009 and could overtake Yahoo Mail in a year or two, if it can keep growing. Yahoo claims 270 million users worldwide. Gmail reportedly has about 190 million. Hotmail has about 360 million users around the globe.
Google's tongue-in-cheek Email Intervention website allows visitors to take action by entering friends' email addresses into a web form that then sends out invitations to open a Gmail account. There are three form options: straightforward, concerned, or embarrassed. There's even an option to record a video message. Never mind that Gmail already includes an "Invite a friend" form; this is social marketing.
The "embarrassed" template begins: "If you had something stuck between your teeth or tissue paper stuck to your shoe, you’d want me to tell you, right? Well, today I have to speak candidly to you about something even more embarrassing: your email address."
Google's blog post on the subject suggests "hottie6elliot1977" as an example of an embarrassing email address. Of course, one could have the email address "[email protected]" but Google has neglected to include a domain.
The Email Intervention site offers a clearer picture of what really offends Google's sense of style: other free email providers. The website graphic depicting a contact list of potential recipients for an Email Intervention notice includes only AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo domains.
Google's humorous pitch to join the Gmail legions follows the path of other Google marketing campaigns like "Gone Google" or its effort to convince business people to migrate their email accounts to Gmail. It's a path that leads to the customers of competitors.
Even though Google's message is lighthearted, as befits social marketing, there's something unsettling about the company's advocacy of email monoculture. In a blog post about the Email Intervention project, Peter Harbison, product marketing manager, offers an anecdote about his friend Andy. "A couple months ago, I sent out an email about a barbecue I was having," he wrote. "On the To: line, there were 15 Gmail addresses and then Andy. He stuck out like a sore thumb . . ."
Technology used to about feeds and speeds; more and more, it's a matter of fashion.
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