The Google Code Blog has announced that Gmail will now support OAuth for both the IMAP and SMTP mail protocols. This will allow developers to utilize a user’s Gmail data to create what will be some interesting applications that will extend mail functionality. A good comparison to this announcement would be Twitter, where there are a wide variety of different applications that once a user allows access to their account can extend functionality. A popular example would be TweetDeck, which allows you to organize your social media into one place and even allows Tweets from your iPhone.
So what is OAuth? It is an open source authentication standard that happens to already work with most Google application programming interfaces. Because Google is now allow OAuth support for IMAP and SMTP, information that can be culled from a user’s mailbox can now be integrated. OAuth is the web intermediary that allows secure access because extension applications will not have your secure information such as username and password.
The Google Code Blog points to an iPhone app called SmartPush, which has advanced filtering options so that you can be notified when important emails arrive.
And programs that integrate with Gmail accounts such as Gmail Drive, which allows users to store their files in their mailbox with an external program, could potentially be allow to use the program without having to log in every time one wants to use the program. Read Write Web is also reporting that Backupify, which is a service that stores cloud data, will also add support for OAuth in Gmail.
I think this is a great idea. Think of all the external apps that Twitter has such as Twitterfeed, Twitpic, and Twitterholic. Any developer can come up with a great idea and unleash it with the social media power of Twitter, and I believe that with Google rolling this out for Gmail and eventually other services, we’ll see some great ideas come to fruition.