When the news about Google Shared Stuff broke I of course had a look right away.
The Email/Share icon looked vaguely familiar. A couple of hours later it came to me. I had seen the icon before on a similar service called ShareThis:
This seemed weird to me and made me wonder if Google had maybe done a buyout or buy-in that I wasn't aware of.
A little digging around showed that the icon was created by Alex King. Alex King is a well known name in the land of bloggers. His name, and the link to his web site, is one which appears in your prepopulated WordPress blogroll when you've just installed it. He's in there because of a series of high quality plugins he has written for WordPress.
One of Alex's projects is the Share Icon which apart from that linked post also has its own (more or less empty) Share Icon Project domain. The project grew out of his Share This plugin for WordPress.
The idea is to replace the mess of sharing icons such as this:
...with one standard icon.
Alex hopes his button will become the standard icon for sharing, just as the orange button has become the standard for feeds.
In an interview earlier this year Alex said:
"Share This and the Share Icon Project are at worst a working concept solution and at best a real solution. The adoption rate has been fantastic, with leading sites like GigaOM, 43Folders and Adaptive Path adopting it. There are over 600,000 pages listed in Google now using the plugin, and it�s been translated to various languages and ported to a number of different platforms.
So far, it�s been a big success."
"The usage on the bookmarklet is just right. From this icon you can post to Google shared stuff, to a variety of other sites, and send via e-mail. Click the icon to share the page, and then choose what mechanism you want to use to share it (e-mail, social web sites, etc.). [...]
It�s important that the Share Icon represent the ability to sharing to a variety of sites and channels, not represent sharing to any one specific web site, channel or service."
Fact is however that if Google takes this service and truly runs with it, they will own the space -- and the icon will become synonymous with Google Shared Stuff.