Facebook the latest to attempt difficult merger of email and social networking
For so long the least sexy part of digital, email has suddenly had a new resurgence in the headlines past few months.
Google had a go with re-engineering the way we view the inbox by first introducing Buzz to run alongside their regular email product ‘Gmail'. Billed as a social network that lived within your email, it allowed you to build social conversations with your email buddies. Another feature allowed you take part in larger conversations with people you don't know, a bit like Twitter enables you to do. This got heavily criticised for privacy reasons because unless you tweaked the privacy settings, other users could see who you emailed most.
Not surprisingly the hype around Google Buzz melted away a few months later.
Google being Google, they decided to up the ante and had another go with Wave. This allowed you to talk with a group of your friends in a real time setting. So email communication became instant like instant messaging. It also allowed you to group email together as 'waves' rather than as emails and responses. Again Google created huge hype around this product and when it was released it was described as 'the email killer' but faded away whenever the non-techie audience failed to adopt it.
Email is a simple concept that most users understand and its going to be hard to make them change. The common user doesn't understand that email isn't cool — even here in Northern Ireland it's consistently the most popular activity people take part in much more than social media. It’s going to take a lot of work to change those behaviours and now the social media guys at Facebook have stepped in to have a try.
This past week has seen Facebook announce their introduction of a 'modern messaging system' for their users. This means for the first time you will be able to create your own @facebook.com email address and this will live alongside all of the messages you receive via your Facebook profile, essentially creating one place where you can manage all of your communication needs.
One thing that Facebook have on their side is that they are adding email to their already popular social networking tool — rather than starting from being an email provider and trying to add fancy bits. More regular users are going to feel comfortable replacing their facebook profile url with a Facebook address — while more advanced users will like the idea of having everything in one place. Time will tell whether Facebook has got it right.