2844658867 ce91e5c0f2 Facebook email: How your email went social

 

There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
- Niccolo Machiavelli

Facebook’s announcement of its own email system, presents an interesting proposition for its users, challenges for it’s competitors and a paradigm shift in how we use email in future. In this post I will try and evaluate the impact of Facebook email on each area.

Users:

The key to the success of Facebook email is how integrated it will be with it’s core services. Rather than having a standalone email system such as gmail, or hotmail the proposition should offer an integrated experience. I’m thinking we could see a more advanced version of Xobni’s outlook plugin when you log into your facebook account.

People in or out of our facebook circle of friends would instantly have their Facebook profile associated to their email address. Their social status, their checkins, their interests will be immediately  accessible whenever you send or receive an email.

Instead of faceless email addresses you have an viable engagement opportunity with someone you may or may not know.

The inevitable issue of privacy control will rear it’s head, and Facebook will have to carefully balance social engagement with a users privacy in what they wish to share or not share.

Competition:

Facebook is now pitching itself directly in competition with Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail.

Here’s some facts on the number of email accounts each service has:

  1. Hotmail – 364 million
  2. Yahoo –  303 million
  3. Gmail – 170 million

Factor in that Facebook has 500 million active users, even if a percentage of them were to take up a Facebook email account that could spell considerable trouble for the competition.

Google’s email offering has been predicated on the basis of what keyword information it can obtain from a users emails in exchange for a ‘free’ email service. I say free because in effect Google gets the better deal in knowing what the users interests are and then refining it’s keyword advertising model.

Now with Facebook email offering not only free email but also a viable engagement opportunity to connect with friends, this could harm not only Google’s business model but also its proposed attempts at putting forward it’s own social media ecosystem. (Please no mention of Google Wave).

The Email Paradigm Shift

Email have tended to exist as standalone systems. As a result email compared with other mediums has barely evolved. There are to my mind three key phases in that evolution:

  1. Application or System Based – e.g. Outlook for Microsoft, or Mail for Mac OSx
  2. Browser or mobile Based – Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo – these are system agnostic
  3. Social media Based – integration with social media channels

It’s clear that Facebook is on the cusp of dragging us into this 3rd phase in the evolution of email.

Conclusion

Facebook decision to branch into offering an email service gives an indication as to how serious it wants to engage in every aspect of our digital lives and to monetize that information. The key to the success of this offering, is how closely integrated with it’s core service and balance that with the appropriate level of privacy controls that protect the user.

Image courtesy of Loving Earth (Flickr)