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Barely a day goes by without a major announcement from one of the big web players in 2010 it seems…
Today was the turn of Mark Zuckerberg’s Social Networking Leviathan, Facebook. The teen millionaire and central character of the big budget Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Social Network’ announced at a press conference yesterday that Facebook would be rolling out a new service called ‘Messages’ in the next few months. The rivalry between Facebook and Google has become increasingly confrontational and relations will be tested even further with the launch of Facebook's revamped messaging service.
Messages is said to integrate email, instant messaging and SMS all in one easy-to use interface. Zuckerburg has emphasised that this new feature is not just about email but about consolidating all your communications into one space, meaning you won’t need to use separate devices, applications or sites to keep in touch with friends. Messages sounds promising, though the concept is reminiscent of the now defunct Google Wave project which met a frosty reception to say the least. Facebook’s vast existing user base should be enough of a head start to ensure Messages does not meet the same fate however.
As with any big announcement in social media these days, the blogosphere is ablaze with reaction and comment on Facebook Messages right now, the consensus appears to be that Facebook are aiming to create a ‘social inbox’ of sorts. Users will be able to set up their own @facebook address , the idea being that their inbox will only play host to messages from friends, cutting out the spam and inconsequential bi-monthly news letters from the Angling site they signed up to eight years ago.
Zuckerberg claims that Facebook Messages is not an email platform to rival the current big players Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail, although the service headlines on the fact of an @facebook.com email address for every user and it’s being referred to internally as the “Gmail Killer”. If it is not intended to be that, then it must strive to carve a niche and provide a clear USP, something that Wave so unceremoniously failed to do. Special attention must also be paid to privacy issues, an area where Facebook has faltered in the past. Leaking details that people have chosen to make (at least partly) public is one thing, revealing data exchanged in emails which are intrinsically private would be quite another. Personally, given Facebook's previous dubious history on privacy issues, I don't think I'll be using their @facebook.com email anytime soon.
Facebook Messages will be rolled out over the next few months. Do you think it will change the way you communicate with friends, or use email as a whole?