Will Facebook email wipe out Google’s Gmail?
The king of all social media, Facebook, has called a press conference for Monday morning. Many are speculating that the company will announce a major move into the email arena; a move that has been rumored now for about a year. While there are conflicting reports as to what exactly the company will announce, the invitation to the press conference itself included a depiction of an email message.
Gmail has been the fastest growing email service in recent years, growing 21% since September 2009. Gmail, with 193 million users as of September of 2009, still trails both Microsoft’s Hotmail and Yahoo’s email service by wide margins in terms of number of email addresses; Yahoo has 361.7 million users and Hotmail 273.1 million. It is, however, growing the fastest and is perceived by many to have the best platform. Since its general availability in early 2007, Gmail has forced its competitors to play catch up as it introduced much bigger storage space for its users, a more of a conversational flow to its grouping of messages, and better spam detection techniques.
Gmail in many ways redefined free web based email when it was introduced in 2005. While
From a user’s perspective, however, there is no doubt that today there is a significant disconnect between the email experience and the social network experience, two things that logically should have much greater coordination than they currently do.
Currently, Facebook offers a very primitive email solution which allows its members to email one another, but cannot direct emails to non-Facebook accounts (only a message with a link to the Facebook message). It also doesn’t offer the ability to add people to email chains nor does it allow for grouping or filing of email interactions. It is, ironically, very non-social.
Other email providers, most notably Yahoo, are aggressively working with Facebook to build points of integration between the two services. Gmail, at least to now, has refused to offer significant integration.
While Gmail is well advanced in both its technology platform and feature set, it lacks what might prove to be the holy grail in the email industry: a robust and content rich social network. This is where Facebook, though it will be forced to play catch up to Gmail for a while from a platform perspective, has a major strength. In recent months, Gmail has attempted to reconfigure parts of its interface, nomenclature and prioritization of email.
But there is not an efficient way for the user to sort emails by different groups of friends, co workers and businesses; Facebook has an almost limitless potential to weave email into the user experience based on its data and social knowledge about its users.
While it is doubtful that Facebook’s email platform would fuel the growth of its base membership (which is now over 500 million worldwide), the email platform could grow astonishingly fast. Generally, email is ‘sticky’ in that even if people perceive another email offering superior, the inconvenience of switching may discourage them from doing so. In order to grow as quickly as it did, Google needed to aggressively develop new features and capabilities.
Facebook, however, should have less of a challenge, assuming its email is at least somewhat competitive. Facebook has long grown past the fad stage, as not just college students and teenagers use it. Generation X adopted Facebook at an unexpected pace and it only grew from there. Members may likely see the ability to combine email and their social network activities onto the same basic platform as too convenient to not switch.
Regardless of what exactly Facebook announces on Monday regarding its email offering, it seems inevitable that it will get into the email game soon and seriously.
Mike Swift, “Is Facebook about to offer email? Reports say it plans a ‘Gmail killer'”, mercurynews.com