The web is buzzing this week with Facebook’s unveiling of a new messaging service – an email-ish service for Facebook users. The news met predictions that Facebook’s new service would somehow become the “Gmail Killer,” going up against the current leaders in web-based mail services. However, the announcement unveiled a very different direction for messaging than traditional email – there’s no subject line, no CC or BCC, and messages are sent instantly with the click of a return button. They announced that this was modeled more after chat and IM functionality than email.
Comments within the blogosphere reflect everything from surprise and doubt to high praise. What strikes me most about the announcement of the new @facebook.com service is that I believe they’ve stayed true to their brand promise. Some critics expected them to go after Google or Yahoo and up the ante on webmail with more and/or better functionalities. But Facebook, whose brand has stood for altering the ways in which we communicate, chose a path that doesn’t change the current route, but rather defines a whole new one.
Facebook representatives cite conversations with users, particularly young users, who view email as cumbersome and passe – opting instead for communication that is instant and simple, like texting or IM’ing. So Facebook developed a communication tool that they believe will trump the formal email and offer a more instant, informal channel for communication that prioritizes conversations, removes extra steps, and allows for seamless sharing of attachments.
Whether or not the new messaging format sticks within their user community, Facebook has certainly introduced a platform that serves the same purpose and lives up to the same brand promise as their original product – to design new models for social connection and transform how we relate within our own network.