Sunday, November 14, 2010

No One is Going to Poke Facebook Email

On Friday the internet exploded with news that Facebook is going to reveal their new email service, that some have called a gmail killer, tomorrow.  Not much is known about this new service and what exactly Facebook has planned, but some seem to think that Gmail is doomed.  We won't know for sure until after the event on tomorrow, but I am here to tell you that Gmail and other mail services have nothing to worry about.  Click the read link below to find out why.

Speculation is that on Monday Mark Zuckerberg will announce that everyone on Facbook with be receiving a new or email address.  They have been working on a secret email service they call project Titan for quite some time.  But what exactly will this new email service give users that isn't already out there today?  And why should users care?

What Is Known About The New Facebook Email Service

To be honest, not much is really known and there is very little in the way of rumors.  But two rumors have emerged, and to be honest, neither are very exciting.

The first is that the new service will incorporate a prioritization or filtering method that will ensure users get the emails that are most important to them.  This will be done based on your social fingerprint on Facebook.  I translate that to mean that the people you are friends with and converse or interact with the most will be spotlighted in some way.

The second rumor is that the new service will include support for Microsoft's Office web apps.  You have to remember that Microsoft does own a small percentage of Facebook, and the two have partnered or worked together on some projects in the past.  So what will this get you?  Well, I assume that users will be able to open, view, and edit Office attachments in the new service without having Office installed on their computers.

Why Should You Care?

I am not sure you should.  Those two rumors alone are neither mind blowing or new.  Gmail can currently do both those things.  You can enable prioritized inbox in Gmail, and you can open office docs, including pdfs, using Google Docs.

Now I am sure if these two rumors turn out to be true they won't be the only features announced.  But I am having are hard time imaging some killer feature that would make me drop Gmail for a new mail service.  Switching email accounts isn't as bad as switching to a new mobile number, but there will still be some issue for users to overcome.

While Facebook already has a built in address book with your friends list, I am not sure that would be the list most users would want as the key for Facebook's rumored email filtering.  I keep my email address book lean, filled only with folks I contact on a regular basis.  The same cannot be said about my Facebook friends list.  My friends list is more of a list of people who I have met a some point in my life, and who I like to check in on every once in a while.  I wouldn't want to have to go through and trim down the list just to get the advanced filtering working.  Especially when I already have that trimmed down list set up in Gmail.  I am sure Facebook could implement something to help mitigate this process, like using their Groups functionality, but when I already have a system setup that works it would take incredible features to get me to leave.  And advanced filtering, especially one that requires me to set it up, isn't one of them.

The second big issue is the separation of peoples lives on Facebook.  I know I use my Facebook profile for personal reasons, and try to keep my professional life separate.  Depending on how deep the integration of their email service is with a user's profile, it might be tough to use the new service for anything but personal email.  The stories of people getting fired or in trouble with their employers because of what they have on their Facebook profiles are well known.  I would be worried about this even with whatever controls Facebook puts in place to prevent this.

The only reason I can really think for anyone to be excited for this is because they already spend most of their online life on Facebook.  I don't really message people on Facebook and I don't use their IM client.  So there would be a pretty high cost for me to move my online life over to Facebook.  Now Facebook has something like 500 million users, and I am sure a decent percentage of them do have their whole online life on Facebook, so that could be all this new service needs to be successful.  But short of revealing a new feature where Facebook could automatically write my emails for me, I will be sticking with my Gmail account.

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