Google Wants to Control Your Wallet

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 28 2014 1:18 PM

Google Wants to Control Your Wallet

topgmail
This message means someone sent you money through Google Wallet. Money!

Screencap of Gmail.

Google Wallet has been around since May 2011, but now Google is doubling down on a feature that lets Wallet connect to Gmail for maximum productivity. Or extreme laziness.

moneysymbolarrow

Screencap of Gmail.

In May 2013 Google started a slow (very slow) rollout of a new function that allows people to link their Wallet and Gmail accounts and then send money in an email. Since then, the feature has been spreading: Once a person gets money sent to their Gmail inbox, they have to link their Gmail and Wallet accounts to claim it, and then the feature gets added to their Gmail. You can also send money from Gmail to a non-Gmail account and then the person just claims the money in Google Wallet.

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It seems, though, that Wallet isn't spreading totally orgnically. On Quartz, Christopher Mims notes that he has started noticing Google pushing the service out more widely. And on Twitter people are seeing it, too.

Though Google hasn't announced anything specific, we're more than halfway through the 18-month rollout schedule the company gave last May. An extra push for Wallet would also fit in with trends in other Google services. Just in the last few weeks Google has added extensive Maps personalization and improved encryption for Gmail. They're incremental changes that are meant to make user experiences better, but they also continue Google's efforts to securely meld all of its services in an attempt to keep users inside the ecosystem for as much of their Internet browsing as possible.

Making Google Wallet easily accessible in Gmail makes it more likely that users will start storing information in their Wallets. For Google, more user data means more targeted advertising means more money. And as Quartz points out, Gmail's user base was at 425 million in June 2012, the last time Google reported a number—that would instantly give Google Wallet a wider reach than other digital financial services have.

Once you know what Google is really driving at, does Google Wallet seem less appealing? Probably not. It's convenient, well thought-out, and email-able. Just don't go too crazy, OK? It's still real money.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.

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