It’s not email! That’s according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg as he announced Facebook’s new “messaging” application today. Unified messaging isn’t a new idea, others have failed with this in the past, but they didn’t have Facebook’s huge client base to roll it out to either.
He also made the case that this is not an email killer as has been claimed in some media hype, but he did suggest that it may well be the better way for younger people who are more accustomed to “real time” communications.
The basic goal is to make communications via this platform feel like a conversation and a no-brainer.
Right now it’s doesn’t support IMAP, but Facebook does plan to support that standard email protocol.
The new feature will start rolling out as invite only over the next few weeks.
The new service has 3 key features:
The idea here is for people only to have to worry about the message and who they are sending it to. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the message is via SMS, email or IM — the platform doesn’t matter on the Facebook service.
Threading is confusing for most according to Facebook. Their idea is to sort messages as conversations between people so that you end up with a history of each of those conversations. Consider it a log book or even a e-scrapbook of your interactions.
This is basically filtering depending on your choices — allowing you to organize your preferred or priority messages. This might sound familiar to Gmail’s Priority Inbox but, it’s true when Facebook makes the claim that they do have some more behavioral tracking data which makes the filtering that much more powerful and personal.
So what’s my take on all this?
It’s another way for them to open up more doors to advertisers to market to their membership. I appreciate the fact that Facebook wants to portray this as a noble attempt to make it easier to connect and communicate with friends. However, I believe this came out of that basic need to monetize Facebook and you do that by opening channels you can sell to potential advertisers. Sure they want to make the world a smaller, more connected place, but someone has to pay the bills some way.
Can Facebook really unify messaging across platforms such as mobile, social and email without most of their member’s heads exploding? If so, they’ve got a marketing channel to offer that may make all past mediums pale by comparison for flexibility, power and reach. It’s no slam dunk, but the game just got a whole lot more interesting.
As Loren McDonald points out in his blog today, the one certainty is that this development and the announcement of “Project Phoenix” from AOL email, assures us of of email address changes and list churn.
What do you think?