Facebook's E-Mail Flop

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.

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