Google+ draws Gmail, Contacts into its circle

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Google is integrating features of its nascent social effort, Google+, into Gmail and contacts. The new features allow people to grow their circles, filter emails and contacts by circles, keep all their contact information up-to-date automatically and share photos to Google+, all from within Gmail.

The new features are embedded right in the heart of the Gmail experience. According to Google, every time you open an email from someone “you can see the most recent post they’ve shared with you on the right-hand side of the conversation”.

But what if said person isn’t already in your circles? Not a problem, says Google, “it’s easy to add them straight from Gmail”.

The Circles function itself, which was one of the main drawcards of the social network, has also been built into Gmail. Google reckons this allows you to “quickly” use your Google+ circles “to filter your mail, saving yourself from having to sift through that pile of daily emails and newspapers”, but only if “you’ve spent time building your Google+ circles”.

As one TechCrunch writer noted, however, this system is incredibly labour-intensive and may actually become a drawback to social network.

Nonetheless, Google reckons that Circles could make email easier. In addition to being able to use them to filter your emails, the integration reportedly allows users to “see messages from all of your circles at once or from each individual circle. And if you want, you can show circle names on emails in your inbox”. The same kind of filtering can be applied to your contacts.

The internet giant reckons the new features will also make keeping all your contacts’ information up to date easier, as long they’re on Google+ that is. If they are then “their contact entry in Gmail will be updated with the profile information they’ve shared with you,” Google says. This reportedly includes phone numbers, email addresses “and more”.

If social networks are about anything, they’re about sharing. Google claims the new Google+ integrations in Gmail, allow users to share directly from their email.

Sharing a photo from your email, for instance, would previously have meant downloading a photo and re-uploading it to your profile. Now, says Google, “you can share images with one quick click. The image(s) will be uploaded to your Google+ photos and be viewable only to the circles that you choose to share with.”

Google says it will be rolling out the features gradually over the next few days. In the weeks following its launch, Google+ was the fastest growing social network on the planet. It experienced another major boost to its user numbers when it opened up to the general public after a long testing phase.

Since then, however, growth on the social network has been in sharp decline.

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