Facebook has entered into more direct competition with Google, adding an additional “messaging” feature that will act like e-mail and provide users with a @facebook.com address. While the media has deemed this move as the “Gmail killer,” Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg disagreed.
He asserted it’s more than just competition for Gmail. It provides a way to communicate across several mediums, linking texts, instant messages and your inbox; providing a comprehensive history of those conversations; and offering a “social inbox” which would allow you to filter your messages to just your friends, which may help eliminate the need for a bulk or spam email folder. It will act as a sort of hybrid between instant messaging and email, giving users all the features of their regular email accounts, but providing messages almost instantaneously, as well as integrating other forms of multi-media conversation.
“There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key,” Facebook engineer Joel Seligstein said in a recent blog post. “…Relatively soon, we’ll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly.”
The new service will also allow users to open and view documents without leaving Facebook at all. It even makes users able to view Microsoft Office documents without having the software installed locally. That function alone gives it a bit of an advantage over Gmail.
Project Titan, as the latest Facebook advance has been deemed, will support attachments, and will provide emails faster, more similar to the speed of text messaging or instant messaging, rather than typical email speed.
“We don’t think a modern messaging service is going to be e-mail,” Zuckerberg said. He said messaging needs to be immediate, and Project Titan is Facebook’s way of eliminating email’s major flaw – that it’s not real time.
Zuckerberg’s assertions that email won’t be the most common form of communication in the future isn’t all that far off. A recent study showed only 11 percent of teens checked their email on a regular basis, with most teens communicating via text message. The latest Facebook service is a response to the thought that email may be a dying technology.
“If we do a good job with that, someday people will start to say, hey, this is the way the future should work,” Zuckerberg said. “Maybe E-mail just isn’t as important as it once was.”
Facebook users can expect invitation only releases now and a wide release of the new “messaging” feature in the coming months.
The company doesn’t anticipate a mad rush to dump Gmail and Yahoo accounts however. Rather a slow progression of more and more users on the new application is expected.
You’ve got mail!
In the mean time, the company that once dominated the world of email – AOL – is joining the email wars. Project Phoenix intends to overhaul the company’s online email service to help them keep up with today’s email standards set by Google, Yahoo and Hotmail. The current version being tested across limited users allows additional integration from outside emails and closely resembles Gmail’s current format. AOL is anticipating a complete release of this service in 2011.