E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

Summary: For a messaging medium that is reportedly dead, there sure is a lot of interest in e-mail these days. The lowly inbox has some mojo or it wouldn't attract the Web's heaviest hitters.

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For a messaging medium that is reportedly dead, there sure is a lot of interest in e-mail these days.

Why? E-mail is the stickiest of applications. For Web sites like AOL and Yahoo, e-mail alone can keep users in the fold. Simply put, you can't have a massive scalable top 5 Web property without e-mail. Sure, some folks will say e-mail is dead---to be replaced with Tweets, life streams and other more current messaging systems---but the reality is most of use e-mail daily and will keep on using it.

To wit:

Simply put, the death of e-mail is greatly exaggerated. If e-mail was toast do you really think these companies would be trying so hard to reinvent it?

That's why the talk of Facebook's launch of an e-mail system Monday borders on comical. Some say Facebook is going to be a Gmail killer! Umm, OK. The reality: Facebook's inbox isn't going to kill anything. Google's Gmail will continue to chug along with search, threads and a priority inbox that's handy. So Facebook will kill Yahoo and Hotmail right? Not quite. Yahoo and Hotmail have history on their side---I'm not going to kill a Yahoo account that has more than a decade's worth of stuff lying around just to have some ldignan@fb.com account (or ldignan@facebook.com).

If you don't believe that history and e-mail matters just look at AOL. AOL announced its Project Phoenix, a revamp of AOL Mail that's not too far behind Yahoo's overhaul, just to let you know it still has an inbox for you. AOL gets 45 percent of its page views from e-mail. AOL properties have roughly 100 million unique visitors a month.

Instead of yapping about Facebook killing e-mail, the question we should be asking is why Facebook needs an inbox when you could argue it already has one under its messages tab. Does Facebook need folks to stick around more? Will e-mail bring more frequency? Are social networks not enough to keep folks around? Will e-mail encourage people like me---I go to Facebook less each month---to stop by more?

With all this hubbub about e-mail it's worth highlighting a few big issues. Among them:

When does e-mail system fatigue set in? Like most folks, I have my share of email accounts. I have Gmail, Yahoo Mail and my work account. I've refrained from getting a Hotmail account only because I have the other two. Ditto for AOL. So now Facebook is going to allow me to use its e-mail service. Will I play along and add yet another inbox? Unless there is something revolutionary I doubt it. How many inboxes will the average human support? I'm maxed out on e-mail systems and can't see ditching Yahoo and Gmail. Moving is a pain. What's the limit here? Three inboxes? Five? Six? What will get voted off the island?

Does social help or hamper the inbox? Facebook's claim to fame is social networking. Its e-mail system will get you the goods from your most important friends. The rub: A Facebook inbox could be downright scary for an account like mine. My Facebook account is a total mess with work friends, high school and college pals and more than a few I barely remember. In other words, Facebook e-mail isn't going to be that helpful to me.

What are the switching costs? The calculus behind switching e-mail services is an interesting exercise. A newcomer like Facebook could "kill" other services only if it can make migration easy and add new features snazzy enough to break inertia.

Where does collaboration fit? If Facebook does some kind of Office integration---as has been rumored---perhaps the inbox becomes a different kind of collaboration tool. The big question is whether Facebook is the right venue for that type of collaboration.

This list could go on forever. The only near certainty we have is that e-mail isn't dead by any stretch. In fact, an e-mail renaissance may be about to begin. These e-mail happy Web giants can't all be wrong.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

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28 comments
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  • eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs, eyeballs. Then, you can get them to use other

    services. The more page views, the more ads you can serve. With email, the ads can be much more effective, based on the content of the email.
    DonnieBoy
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @DonnieBoy <br><br>You got it. Gmail is just part of Google's spyware network. They read all your emails to find out more about you so they can target you better for ads. Of course, they can combine that data with your searches, your contacts, your calendar, your docs, all your internet usage if you use Chrome, and all the pages you visit that use Google-analytics if you don't. Sounds scary to me.

      Facebook, would be more of the same, but less pervasive.
      jorjitop
    • I always use an email app to avoid ad driven web mail.

      With the wide variety of free email apps available today, this should be a non-issue.
      ashdude
  • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

    Gmail is a good things, but I would not use it , because Almost all avaliable mail-box names have been registered by other folks.
    hellowiki
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @hellowiki

      Huh? What the hell are you talking about? I register tons of e-mail addresses on Gmail for friends, and there are ALWAYS open versions of their name. Sure, sometimes I have to add a number to the end of their name in order to find an 'open' e-mail, but that isn't that damned hard to do.
      Lerianis10
      • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

        @Lerianis10

        His real name is John Smith. That's why he can't find an open email... Haha
        phillyblizzle05
  • Email remains.

    My first email is still the only one I use besides my work email. Google, hotmail, etc. I've tried them all and discarded when I decided the hassle of tracking down every account and contact to change email wasn't worth any features offered. My wife still uses her first email, as does my brother, uncle, best friends, etc. Services like Facebook come and go but once you have established your primary email with all your contacts, Alma mater, etc. It is HARD to give that up. IMHO that's why everyone is establishing email services. Email will remain the anchor customers come back to years after they have gotten bored yammering on facebook.
    oncall
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @oncall

      Excellent point.
      PlayFair
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @oncall You make a very good point. But I don't know if that many people will be inclined to switch to facebook mail.
      snoop0x7b
      • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

        @snoop0x7b ... Based on their hype, enough newbies will bite on it to make it useful for some time to come. It takes a certain amount of experience and time for one to get beyond "newbie" status; sometimes it's years, I've noticed, particularly for straight "users" with no interest in anything to do with inner workings. I know too many who are just like that, in fact.
        anonymous
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @oncall I agree and I created a gmail account just so I could forward all of my mail to gmail just so I have it when I am away. I also use Outlook on my main computer so I have a hard copy of my mail.
      bvonr@...
  • facemail?

    I have a couple of email accounts. Some have been around awhile and would be a hassle to change. Some are strictly spam collectors, where you Have to use a valid email address to proceed. I believe I am typical.

    I can't think of a single reason why I would want to use Facebook email. Their track record on security issues is so bad it is often used as a example of how Not to do it.
    lars626
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @lars626 Yeah. Facebook would probably leave your inbox open for the world to see - without warning you (hey, it's up to you to visit your security settings every half hour in case they reset them to "all open" for the greater good.) That's my opinion of their "security" track record.
      MikeR666
      • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

        @Mike (not Cox) Agreed. That's why I won't use facebook mail. I like facebook, and I use it, but the stuff I use it for is all stuff I'd be comfortable with anyone knowing... Email doesn't fit in that bin.
        snoop0x7b
  • AOL? And communications tech.

    AOL? I suppose they're not dead, but I didn't think they'd really be worth mentioning anymore.

    Are they still doing that whole proprietary email lock in thing? They were one of the worst when it came to not being able to move to somebody else.

    "Like most folks, I have my share of email accounts. I have Gmail, Yahoo Mail and my work account."

    Eh, I wouldn't go as far as to say "like most folks." You are, after all, a tech blogger. Using lots of communication stuff is what you do for a living. Sometimes I wonder if the tech world isn't a bit [i]too[/i] obsessed with the communication side of technology. There are other technologies out there that solve different problems.

    Maybe it's time to give communications a little rest and play around with the rest of tech. I still want that flying car.
    CobraA1
  • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

    Gmail is the best. Just look at yahoo and hotmail, they were two sleeping giants until Gmail woke them up. I remember hotmail used to offer 2 MB space and yahoo 4 MB and they were and are still bloated with annoying graphical ads and pop3 support was only for paid customers. Now that they have woken up and trying to play catch up with Gmail....it's too late for them
    shellcodes_coder
    • RE: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?

      @shellcodes_coder Neither Yahoo, nor Hotmail would trace your email to display advertisement though
      tamer@...
  • Facebook is the AOL of the 21st century

    Think about it:<br><br>1. It places a prettier (but flaky) UI atop common web activities -- email, IM, message boards, link sharing, etc. -- that are completely possible without it.<br><br>2. Tech illiterates flock to it in droves: to the point where they become convinced that none of those activities ARE possible outside the new portal interface.<br><br>Of course, Facebook adds the vaunted "social media" component -- that is, it increases your daily I/O of inane smalltalk a hundredfold -- so I guess <i>that's</i> something.<br><br>Also, AOL had no Farmville equivalent whereas Facebook [i]does[/i]. If that isn't progress, I don't know what is. (And if you read this post mirrored on Facebook, that last sentence will be highlighted in Facebook's glowy proprietary "Sarcasm" font.)
    Churlish
  • You have an ID number in Facebook, how's the email going to work?

    John Smith, a generic name where there are probably many. Now if one of them registers an email address what happens to the rest of them? First come first serve?<br><br>Blizzard fixed the Username problem with codes, but that still doesn't mean you can have a unique email address.<br><br>with all this in mind, Facebook does have their own messaging system which just utilizes the database and all users have unique ID numbers but can have the same name. The messaging systems sends messages via ID numbers and not their name. Email puts emphasis on the name of the email address instead of ID numbers, so an address is first come, first server. So, this @facebook.com will be just another @AOL, @GMAIL, or @YAHOO address.<br><br>So @facebook.com will have no affect pulling people from other active email addresses.
    Maarek
  • the thesis is wrong

    Where did you get this statement "For a messaging medium that is reportedly dead"? Email is dead? Really? It is the major way businesses communicate with each. How is it dead?
    pupkin_z