On the day Facebook is expected to throw its hat into the crowded and competitive e-mail ring, it's worth noting what the current landscape looks like.
Compete.com recently published stats on e-mail market share, based on U.S. Internet users' engagement with web-based email clients.
Who's the biggest of them all? It's Yahoo. And No. 2 is Microsoft with Hotmail.
From a November 11 post on the Compete.com site (which I saw via Liveside.Net):
"Based on unique visitors from the US IBP (internet browsing population), Gmail doesn’t even hold a candle to Hotmail (94% larger than Gmail) and Yahoo Mail (190% larger). Gmail’s buzz is obviously much larger than it’s bite."
It's interesting to see many press and bloggers claim that Facebook's main target with its expected e-mail entry is Gmail (a distant number three in Compete's stats). It's also interesting to consider how the Hotmail team views the increasing cooperation between Facebook and Microsoft -- especially if Facebook does end up announcing today that it will be offering Facebook e-mail customers the ability to view and edit Microsoft Office Web Apps documents from inside their inbox. That's a capability that is currently offered only via Hotmail.
Update: Yes, Office Web App integration is part of the new Facebook e-mail (that Facebook officials say isn't email.)
In my most recent monthly column at Redmond Magazine, I noted that there's a tug-of-war happening inside Microsoft. On one side are those who believe that making Microsoft products and services available on as many platforms as possible is the way to win. On the other are those who believe that software and services are the company's greatest assets and should be treated as incentives for Microsoft-centric users. Office Web Apps inbox integration is a prime example of this battleground.
Stay tuned for an update on what Facebook actually does announce later today....
Related reading: E-mail mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?