So after you use Gmail for a while, it starts giving you the chance to invite others to use it. Very interesting.
And I don’t find the sponsored links to be distracting at all. In fact, it was a few days before I even noticed them. They’re about as obtrusive as those little tiny ads that the New Yorker runs in the back pages of its magazines. (Pity the little inn in the Berkshire Valley that has to compete with Alex Ross’ savaging of Hollywood’s latest.)
I suppose I shouldn’t say that, for fear that they’ll make them bigger. (The Gmail sponsored links, not the New Yorker ads.)
What about the notion that the ads represent a violation of privacy, since Google has to read your mail in order to figure out what constitutes a related ad?
I already have a program that reads every single piece of e-mail I get: it’s called my spam filter. Likewise, there’s a computer program that looks at every single purchase I make with my credit card: it’s called anti-fraud software. There’s even one that knows what books I’ve bought, and tries to tell me what other books I might like: the Amazon recommendations system.
The fact is, we already live with plenty of systems that analyze activities and communications that, to one degree or another, are private. The question at this point is less whether we want to turn them off, than who is using them and how much control we have over them.