“It’s not email. It’s true that people will be able to have an @facebook.com email and addresses, but it’s not email.”
So what is it?
Say what you like about Facebook, and many people will, there is no denying that it is a raging success. It is seemingly unstoppable and, much like Google, shows no desire to knuckle down and concentrate on what it knows it is good at. ‘anything they can do we can do better’ would seem to be the companies mantra.
As with most big announcements the general content of Mark Zuckerberg’s address had long been knocking around various news sites and message boards. The exact detail of his “g-mail slaying titan” was rather up in the air. Having explained that Email is “too formal” (a comment worthy of another blog entry – i’ll let you know when it is done) the Facebook founder declared “we think we should take features away form messagin – it should be simple”. The crux of his point was that email is dying out as the method of commuincating across the internet. People tweet about going for a beer later, arrange a party using Facebook and send pictures to each other by uploading it to flickr. (I think Zuckerberg’s point was more that people do all of this on Facebook, but I don’t and I don’t think everyone does).
Facebook mail is going to integrate all your feeds into one place, the suggestion was that you would even be able to get your SMS texts in your feed. When you add in Facebook’s idea for a “Social inbox” – where your Facebook contacts are consulted to create a whitelist of more important emails – this starts to sound like it could work.
Once Zuckerberg had finished setting out the plans for ‘Facebook Messages’ Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering for the internet giants, stepped up to demonstrate exactly what these exciting features was going to be able to do. In a somewhat dangerous move, if my girlfriend is anything to judge by, Bosworth pulled up his entire personal chat history with is girlfriend. After declaring his jealousy that the next generation would be able to browse through the entire catalogue of their interaction with someone – girlfriend, boyfriend, school mate, arch nemesis etc – Bosworth hastily pointed out that you would be able to delete conversations. Ah, excellent, we can ensure we only have to recall the good bits.
Given the reluctance a lot of people have for Facebook‘s ever extending reach, you would think that those wandering around the Palo Alto office would try and step back and look at their products. They have a good idea in Facebook Messages, lots of people will like being able to get everything in one place. For the avid Facebook users (which is a heavily populated group) anything the site launches will be used and loved. For a lot of people though, they don’t want everything in one place. The spread of data about ourselves is a fairly scary prospect – or reality – that clouds everything happening on the internet.
My girlfriend and I know what parties we went to together, we know when we sent silly messages on facebook to each other and we are more than happy keeping those things to ourselves, thank you. Being able to click a button on my Facebook page and see everything I have ever done with someone is not something I would like to do. Facebook has to be aware of people’s problems with the site. David Fincher may have projected a pretty socially awkward Mark Zuckerberg in cinemas around the world, but it is surely impossible for him to really be that insular. If Hollywood had produced a documentary it’s tagline would have had to have been, ‘You don’t get to 500 million friends without…being an expert business man with a bloody good product.”
Coca-Cola is a bloody good product. You can get it in a diet format, you can get a bit of cherry flavouring in their. You can get it in a multitude of different bottles. Coke have never thought about launching a flavour that tastes like wine. They know what they do well. They know what their customers want to get from them. Maybe Facebook should learn a thing or two from the ‘old skool’ companies.