Dear Gmail, Look out. Love, Facebook


This week Facebook announced their “modern messaging system,” setting off a flurry of blogosphere exchanges as to whether Facebook will trump Gmail. Mark Zuckerberg denied that it was intended to “kill email” framing his offering as inclusive, but here’s three reasons I believe Facebook messaging has the potential to succeed email.

1. TEMPERATURE: Facebook is built of warm contacts (family, friends, friends of friends and the odd random suggestion). Obviously Gmail connects those same people but the platform itself lacks the same presumption of community architecture. It enables messaging between the same groups of people but it wasn’t constructed around the idea of intimate, real time connection. A subtle distinction, I know, but it’s the sort of distinction that seeps into the walls and joints of a structure and turns a house into a home.

2. EASE: As Zuckerberg laid out, Facebook messaging was built because it was time for an upgrade. Specifically, it was time to make messaging:

  • seamless
  • informal
  • immediate
  • personal
  • simple
  • minimal
  • short

To that end Facebook added conversation history, seamless messaging and a social inbox. By allowing users to view entire conversation strings with friends or family, and to seamlessly communicate with them using their preferred messaging system (email, chat or SMS), Facebook took ownership of the merger of previously divided conversation platforms. Put another way, while Google created a messaging system for all people, Facebook enabled all people to message any way they want. The goal may arguably be the same but Facebook’s approach is very timely and persuasive.

3. PERSONALIZATION: As Techcrunch reports, the web is becoming increasingly personalized. In the not too distant future, every site you visit will be reconstituted to reflect your interests, past purchases, queries and causes you care about. Eric Schmidt of Google agrees, stating the web will become increasingly predictive as search become a Serendipity Engine that prepares answers to questions you haven’t yet asked based on what you’ve searched before. Email should be no exception. The more customized, integrated and seamless it can become, the more important it will be to you. Add to that Facebook’s self stated goal to map “people and what they care about“, and their messaging system has the potential to become a mainstay of the personalized web with a powerful first mover advantage.

The growing tension between search and personalization as drivers of the web are important considerations in the debate over Facebook messaging vs. Gmail. Right now Google has weight in numbers while Facebook has more heart. The winner will more than likely be determined by the future of the web itself. With that in mind Facebook just sent Google a very direct message: Here we come.

Do you believe Facebook can trump Gmail? Or will Facebook come and go while Google lives on?