We are all aware of the pace at which Facebook is advancing. Before the Web 2.0 Summit, Zuckerberg revealed that around 350 million users make use of Facebook messages and exchange approximately 4 billion messages every day and these are personal messages alone excluding those sent by Groups or Pages.
These numbers show us why Facebook would want to have its own messaging system. According to comScore, Gmail has 193.3 million users, Hotmail/Windows Live has 361.7 million users and Yahoo Mail is used by 273.1 million users. That places things in better context, doesn’t it!
We agree with Zuckerberg on the fact that majority of messages exchanged in and out of social networks are on a one-on-one basis.
Zuckerberg’s “not email” is not exactly aimed at being an email killer but a superset of the email service. Now what does that mean. Facebook wants to bring together the different forms of messaging we use viz. SMS, IM, email and Facebook chat.
What triggered this new design?
Most of you might already be aware of the ongoing cold war between Facebook and Google over allowing each other to see who your friends are. Google blocked Facebook’s access to Google API therefore preventing you to import names and addresses from Gmail when you sign up on Facebook or want to add friends from your Gmail contact list.
Back in 2008, Facebook blocked Google’s Friend Connect which was capable of exporting list of friends from Facebook. Since then, Facebook has been preventing Google from accessing the user’s friend lists. So, we can say Google did a tit-for-tat and refused to allow it unless Facebook returned the favor. We have no news yet suggesting whether Google has acted similarly with other third party services and applications or it is just Facebook that they have blocked.
Another major reason could be Facebook’s need to cope up with the vastly increasing number of messages everyday. A “simple and lightweight” system is what Facebook is building right now to serve the people who felt that email alone was way too formal and slow. Zuckerberg said the above while talking about the young users of the social network who preferred IM, SMS and Facebook chat over email.
Why Google wants Access to Facebook’s friends lists and Facebook won’t allow it?
Facebook is the largest social network on the planet. Facebook’s friends lists if combined would produce a so called “social graph” that will span half a billion people. This information will reflect who knows who and who likes what. If Google were to have access to this information, it could largely enhance their ad services. So, that’s what makes Google desperate enough to block Facebook’s access to its API.
According to Andrew Bosworth who is the lead engineer of the new design, Facebook wants to enable people to connect the way they want to connect and share the way they wish to share. This is the biggest project Facebook has worked on till date with 15 engineers working for more than 15 months. The product will be rolled out slowly to users worldwide in the forthcoming months.
Why Facebook’s Messaging System could kill email?
We think that Facebook does make a of sense with the new model they are designing for the users. Facebook’s new system would have three parts – Seamless messaging, cross-platform conversation and social inbox.
1. Only Friends No Spam
The last feature called the social inbox will filter messages and show stuff from people we care about. No bots can get here. Also, its the messages from my family and friends that I really care about. My bank statements and webdesign newsletters can wait till the end of the month.
So someone who’s not your friend sends you a message. His email will arrive in other inbox. If you want you can move it your inbox so that all his messages don’t get filtered from next time.
2. Fast and Seamless messaging
As Facebook mentioned in its blog, young people as well as adults really like the simplicity of Facebook messages.
To be clear, Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.
Now that is clever thinking. They are providing @facebook.com email addresses too, to people who want one enabling users to share things whether on Facebook or outside.
3. Future of Messaging
Like Apple’s FaceTime Facebook too wants us to stop remembering numbers and email addresses. The name of the friend is all we need to share things. The aim is to combine all forms of messaging into one system where conversing is less complicated and faster than before.
Why Gmail will still survive Facebook?
Now having looked at all the pros of Facebook’s system lets look at some ways how email as we use it is something we will always use.
1. Professional vs. Casual Conversations
I connect with my friends over Facebook but not with my boss or college dean. When I send cover letters or proposals I can’t afford to be so casual. A lot of such people will never feature on my Facebook friend’s list.
2. Social Inbox – Old stuff, new packaging?
I really think the whole idea of a social inbox is overrated. We have had filters from Gmail since as long as I can remember. I can selectively label emails, archive them and even forward them. Gmail offers me email services like no one else does. All the power in a very simple interface. Something that Yahoo, Hotmail and Apple’s MobileMe has yet to achieve.
3. No limitations on Content
Gmail offers you to use rich formatting and ability to attach as much information you like in the form of HTML, pictures and other file formats. There’s no limit there.
4. Gmail’s Priority Inbox at its Job
It seems to be doing a good job so far by filtering the most important messages from others.
So where’s the future of messaging headed?
Facebook isn’t directly targeting Gmail or any other email providers but that doesn’t mean they have no reason to worry. The world might be resistive to change but the future is bound to favor the service which provides the richest experience that is intuitive enough at the same time.
It’s ultimately the users who decide which service they want to use and for how long. What we can definitely say at this time is that with this move Facebook is definitely going to increase the time it spends with its already addicted users.
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