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Archives: Facebook Email - Pros and Cons

Originally published in March 2011
Simon Nguyen

Email is one area of web technology that has remained static for the past decade. Of the four major email providers, only Google’s Gmail has enjoyed some modest growth the last couple of years. With the emergence of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, some have questioned the relevance of traditional email. Adding insults to injury is the recent Facebook’s unveiling of a brand-new email service, designed to cater to the younger generation. While the new service may boost the anemic email market, it could also push struggling email providers like Yahoo and AOL to the verge of irrelevancy.

Providing email service to its users is part of Facebook’s grand plan to transform itself into an all-in-one destination, where the person has access to everything she needs to keep in touch with friends, colleagues and family. This idea is stemmed from the fact that users are spending a lion share of their web time on social networks. According to USA Today, 36% of one’s web time is spent on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. With Facebook email, there will be no need for web users to visit a site like AOL.com just to check their email. The new email service is the perfect excuse for Facebook users to stay on the site even longer.

One of the major pros of Facebook email is the fact it will spark much needed competition in a market that is lacking serious innovation. Other than Gmail, which has introduced new features such as Google Buzz and Voice, major email providers such as Yahoo and AOL have yet to improve their service in a significant way. The new Facebook email will force websites that rely heavily on their email service for traffic to drastically improve their products or face obsoleteness. However, this could also backfire on Facebook as Yahoo and the likes may see a need to evolve into social networks in response to Facebook. This is not unlike cable companies offering phone service to counter phone companies offering TV service.

Another pro of Facebook email is its simple and intimate interface. All one will need to do to send an email is to type one’s message, pick a recipient and click send. The process should take no more time than sending a tweet or posting a board message. This essentially meets the chief aim of Facebook email, which is to seamlessly integrate email into the social networking fold. The new service is expected to allow for attachments of photos and other documents.

Will Facebook email render traditional email obsolete? When email first gained prominence some decades ago, many people thought it will quickly replace traditional mail. As of today, snail mails are still being used for business and other important documents. Moreover, it is not until 6-7 years ago that email finally became acceptable for formal correspondences. In the short term, Facebook email is unlikely to become anything more than a simpler and more intimate way to communicate with friends and family. A decade from now, however, we may be talking about how web messages have replaced emails as the preferred form of communication.

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