Facebook's E-Mail Flop

Facebook's E-Mail Flop

Summary: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that Facebook new Messages service is not "Facebook email." Yes, it is, and it's lousy.


As I watched Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg yammer on and on yesterday about Facebook's new messaging service, which he claimed really and truly wasn't e-mail, I kept thinking: "Yawn. It's e-mail, and it's bad e-mail at that."

Oh sure, it includes SMS and IM as well, but so what? Other Web-based e-mail systems, like my Gmail account sitting in another window as I write this, have been all-in-one communication centers for years. Heck, back when I was using Lotus Notes and Sametime on a regular basis years ago I could do this. Come on guys, unified e-mail is sooo 1995.

So what does Facebook Messages really bring to the table? I don't see anything. To quote my wife Clara Boza, a legal marketing consultant, "Why would I want to use Facebook messaging?" Why, indeed. It's just another damn e-mail account to check.

I don't know about you, but I already have had more than enough of them. These days, I only use two: my own vna1.com domain and Gmail. But, I still have half-a-dozen others, and as a former e-mail administrator, I've had dozens. I don't need another one. Do you?

Gallery To see the updated Messages unified inbox, including screenshots of how to get it working and how it operates, head on over to the gallery.

In particular, do you need one that a "social inbox" hodgepodge of e-mails, IMs and anything else that Facebook thinks is a message. I'm already shuddering at the thought of getting Farmville spam from my friends.

I've already seen one system that tried to throw all my communications into one large pot. It was called Google Wave. I never could figure out what to do with Google Wave. Almost no one could.

You see I think there's a reason why we use different means of communications: They're not all the same thing. When I send an e-mail, it's because I had thought about something and I want to convey some information or make a point. When I send an IM, it's a quick, dashed-off thought. If I do a social network update, I'm seldom talking about anything that's important. For me social networking is the online equivalent of the old water-cooler chatter of the 60s and 70s.

Sure, maybe younger people use social networking to talk to each other more than I do, but I'll bet when they want to make say a formal work proposal or tell someone privately in detail about what happened to them last night, they still use e-mail. Or, if not an actual e-mail message, something that looks a lot like one.

Facebook wants to mix all these kinds of messages together into one message mess. Making this mess even less appetizing, it's getting rid of such fundamentals as subject lines. Guys, the subject line is there for a reason! It's so I can tell at a glance if I want to read more of a message.

I'm also supposed to trust Facebook-Facebook!?--with messages from outside my Facebook friend circle? I don't think so! Historically, Facebook is in-secure by design. As my comrade David d Gewirtz puts it so well, "Geez! Now email, too? Do we really want Facebook to know even more about us?" I don't. And, I certainly don't what Facebook knowing about my bank accounts!

It's not just us old guys who still prefer e-mail to group chat on a social network. As iGeneration blogger Zack Whittaker puts it, "An argument between what is more personal for the user ranges on: the email inbox or the social network? Ultimately it doesn't matter, because regardless of either of these being breached is the possibility that some varying degree of breach will cause you to suffer either personally or professionally."

And, when it comes to protecting you, do you really think Facebook is going to do a good job at that? If you do I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. As for me, if want to write to me, say with an offer on that bridge, you can reach me at any of my usual e-mail addresses or IM accounts; don't bother trying me at sjvn1@facebook.com.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration

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  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    Well, maybe it's redundant for someone who was using Lotus Notes and Sametime ten years ago... But the big draw here is that SMS, email and Facebook messages are now going to be incorporated into Facebook. As expected, the Geeks are unimpressed, but lots of people like being able to get everything in one place, and having one program push all of their information to all of their devices simultaneously without having to know how to set all that up by themselves. All of this is not new at all, but the key to the Facebook strategy is and always was convenience.
    • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

      @nickswift498 But I already have all that on my GMail page, and I don't have to worry with Facebook keeping or peeking at my e-mail, the lack of subject lines, etc. etc.

      • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop


        You've already got Google indexing every bit of your correspondence for their own ends - why add another snoop with an equally poor privacy record : -)

        Yes, I wear a tin hat, and no, I don't let Google anywhere near my e-mail.
    • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

      Hey young fellar: Convenience is not all it is cracked up to be. If Americans had taken the convenient route, The United states of America would probably not exist today. Sometimes, the cost of convenience is way too much. You don't have to take the advice, but I would remember it. And, you are welcome!
  • if it's not email...

    Then why would I want to have email going there?
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    I just want to highlight facebook horrible default settings for login (and for everything that happens after login): http, not https. I mean, really, are they serious?
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    Waiting 4 Diaspora* =)
  • Don't forget about Corporate Firewalls

    My Company blocks Facebook.com . oops no workie. Flop in the making .
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    After reading this article I had one thought: the author doesn't get it. If you are seeing it and looking to use it solely as an email service; you are right - not yet any good.

    Personally as a first step I think this is a good thing. I'll keep gmail/exchange for my work/business stuff and let my social communique go via FB. For my social friends who use FB (a lot of them) this will be a good thing for them and me.
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    Looking at my Nexus One I clearly see trend toward convergence of various forms of communication: voice, SMS, email, IM.

    Maciej Janiec
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    Just as they already have with other products and services like compuserve, aol, netscape navigator, google wave, and on and on... the consumer / user will ultimately decide its relevance, importance, and longevity.
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    I doubt I will be changing. Facebook seems to have too many privacy issues. I didn't see if it would download into Outlook. I like to download so I can refer back to things. I get my SMS and IMs right where I want them.
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    excellent blog @ Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
  • Interesting take, but...

    This is an interesting take and you make some valid points, but it seems more likely that your form of communication does not equal the next generation's. While I may not use text messaging that much, I've noticed my younger cousins use it quite frequently. I don't use Facebook at all, but I know a lot of people who do. I'd actually argue I know more people who use Facebook than who use GMail, which you provide as a comparison of features. It would seem to me, the reality is the average user is familiar with Facebook and text messages and if Facebook has found a way to combine those two in an effort to simplify messaging for its users, despite not breaking new ground, it could be a success for them.

    Your arguments about security is the most valid, but your quote from Zack Whittaker is the most important. It's up to the user to ensure what needs to stay private stays private whether that's bank account numbers or gossip about a rival.

    Unified messaging may not be a new concept, but that doesn't mean everyone is using it. Facebook's attempt may push other companies to improve their own messaging platforms and should that happen, we should be thankful for Facebook's "bad e-mail."
    • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

      A "pig in the poke" and I'm not buying. The cost for this slight of hand is is too much. Sorry!
    • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

      A "pig in the poke" and I'm not buying. The price for this slight of hand is too costly. Sorry!
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    So you haven't used it, but you know it's lousy. Got it.
  • It is a good thing for Sheep.

    All I see is a lot of Sheep of all ages falling for this without ever thinking of any of the consequences.

    Cannot wait for Facebook to make the next unilateral decision to reset privacy settings to what They think is best.

    Many profiles and posts are still visible after the changes in April 2010.
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    Has anyone here heard of Digsby? It's a communications aggregator, just like Facebook's new platform seems to be. You can set it up to monitor your email, IM, social networks, and so forth. The fact that it _isn't_ part of Facebook is a big plus from my perspective. There are other products out there that do the same thing, to one degree or another. There's Voxox, for instance, which also throws in phone calls and file transfer.

    Facebook is trying to _become_ the internet, to some extent. With their history, and their focus, I hope that never happens. Things online are scary enough as it is...
  • RE: Facebook's E-Mail Flop

    No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.