The idea behind this is to make it easier to search for information or data without having to switch from the search engine to Gmail. For example, typing in “bill” or “invoice” into the search bar could also bring up any monthly statements sent to your Gmail address for services you subscribe to. The results would be displayed alongside the general results of a search, so that they are separate and easier to interpret.
Gmail already has its own search feature built-in that parses through emails to find specific information, but it’s limited only to emails. By adding all that information to Internet search, Google is looking to personalize it in a way that will compete with how social networks, like Facebook, integrate people into search results on their sites.
The move is being rolled out cautiously in order to avoid the wrath of privacy advocates and regulators, as well as a repeat of the debacle over Buzz, the social networking service that mined personal Gmail data and made it accessible to others. Up to 1 million Gmail users can sign up for the trial which is a tiny fraction of the estimated 425 million Gmail accounts currently active.
Feedback from the trial will determine when and how Google rolls this out to all accounts. The company has also indicated that it would be willing to include email data from competitors’ platforms, like Yahoo! and Microsoft, though neither has committed to offering any information to Google’s search engine.