Google has made something of a strange move... and it is one that could see users jumping ship and seeking refuge at Outlook.com. Ordinarily if you want to email someone you, understandably, need to have their email address. But this is no longer the case with Gmail. Google has started to roll out a new feature which means Google+ users can email any other Google+ user regardless of whether they have exchanged email addresses.
On the face of it, the feature sounds interesting. You may not have someone's email address, but this need not stand in the way of sending them a message. If you are following someone on Google+, you could just send them a message, but this isn’t the same as sending an email. But now it doesn't matter -- just following someone (or having them in a circle to use Google's nomenclature) is enough to enable you to send them a message that will be delivered their inbox.
Sounds useful? Maybe. But think about it another way...
You can send a message to anyone you follow -- this is one side of the coin. The other is that anyone who follows (or circles) you is able to send you an email. Anyone. Regardless of whether you have given them your email address or not.
Google tries to allay fears by pointing out that messages from those in your immediate contacts will be delivered to the inbox, while those from unknown people will be demoted to the Social section of the inbox. Thankfully it is only possible for someone to send you one message in this way until you respond, but so what?! It opens up the possibility of an endless stream of spam and unsolicited emails from all manner of sources -- as if we didn’t already all have enough email to deal with!
Of course, you'll find nothing like this in Outlook.com. Microsoft's web-based email does not want to integrate itself into every single aspect of your online life and does everything it can to help cut down on spam rather than introducing features that could increase it.
I do have a Gmail account (yes, I know... sorry!) and as soon as I saw that this feature had rolled out to me, it was immediately disabled. A full switch to Outlook.com is looking increasingly enticing as Google continues to make a hash of things.
What do you make of this? Has Google rolled out a useful feature, or is it another example of misjudging what people are looking for? Does it make you want to switch to Outlook.com, or happy that you have already done so?