There has been a lot of discussion this week, following Facebook’s recent announcement of new built-in email capabilities with Facebook “Messages”. So, what is this about?
- As a greeting gift, you will be offered an e-mail adress @facebook.com
- In the same mailbox, you can choose between email, chat and SMS
- Simplified messaging (no subject line for instance)
For sure, it’s a rather bold move in the webmail industry because Facebook have 500 million users (350 million using Messages), when Yahoo Mail claims to have 300 million mailboxes, and GMail 170 million.
A simple, integrated and social approach to email
Overall, I think the chosen approach is a smart one, because Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t expect to replace email. Rather, build a better social messaging system integrating email as well. We remember that Google Wave tried to replace all communication channels before, with a large failure. Let me explain why.
In fact after some analysis, the company found out that the vast majority of the 4 billion daily messages generated by the company was one-to-one, simple communication. So according to Facebook, traditional email is too formal and a little too complicated, so the key elements of this new service are, as explained by Zuckerberg:
For the most part, I agree with the fact that email is not really suited to communicate on a mobile or social level, hence the success of Twitter. So Facebook used a slightly different approach than what GMail introduced several years ago:
- Seamless messaging — messages will not be listed by date (or conversation like in Gmail), but organized by contact.
- Integrated messaging — users can integrate their Facebook messages, SMS texts, and @facebook.com email into the new Messages system. All the content sent through these means will be pulled into conversations.
- Social/Friends inbox — Facebook messages will have two inboxes. One will essentially be for messages from friends, and the “other” folder will be for everyone else.
What about email marketing?
There is emphasis on the fact that this new messages service is not built to send to a lot of different people at the same time, even the forward function will have its limits. Still, Facebook email adresses will accept messages from the outside world, but given Zuckerberg said that he thinks an email contains way too much information, I don’t think HTML emails we traditionaly use will work well with it. But all this is too unclear to debate seriously for now.
To conclude, I’m quite curious to see how they will deal with business usage of Facebook messages, though there is a plan ongoing. There will be advertising in the same fashion than existing ads that sounds interesting, I think something similar than Gmail ads, but wait and see…