Our partner site, AllFacebook has posted a great summary of Facebook’s new Social Inbox feature, and clarifies that the service is not a Gmail killer. I wager below that it’s not a Gmail killer yet, but it’s setting up the stage to eventually invalidate email.
First of all, read Nick’s summary of Facebook Social Inbox at AllFacebook. You can see that Nick clarifies that this service is not a Gmail killer, and isn’t meant to replace your work email. However, in my opinion, Facebook is taking the first step towards changing the way we communicate on the web, and killing Gmail may actually just be part of the long term strategy.
The new Facebook Social Inbox will be the most efficient, most certain way of getting a message to a friend. The reason for this is that it’s going to hit several different platforms, including Facebook, IM, Email and Facebook. So I send a message to Bill, and his Facebook, IM, Email and Facebook all ring at the same time, which means that if I’m planning tonight’s party, I post to Facebook and can know that Bill got the message if he’s still anywhere close to any of his technology.
Now I’m sure many people will immediately say (as they always do before they get a little schooling) that “I don’t WANT to have all my inboxes ringing every time someone sends me a message. Well I can guarantee you that you’ll be able to turn off forwarding if you want to. That’s an important point. You won’t be forced to have your SMS ring every time anybody sends you a Facebook message, and Facebook will soon add filters so that only message from certain friends go through. Don’t worry, OK?
Another key element that people tend to forget about Facebook is that it has always made sign up a breeze. I still remember the first time I tried to buy credits, and completely forgot they already had my credit card on file because I had purchased a ‘gift’ once. So it was two clicks. Similarly, we all have a lot of our IM, Email and other types of information in Facebook. I imagine they are just going to activate the social inbox, and we’ll start receiving alerts before we even know it. And there will be a good chunk of users that find it useful.
There’s also something to be said about the cachet of a Facebook email: kids are going to feel its cool to use that email address. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org , and that means I’m connected. It will be a status thing to younger generations, and then an “I’m in the loop” symbol for older generatoins.
So years down the line, if the kids continue as they have been, they’ll be shooting messages back and forth through Facebook, and those messages will be ringing their phones (necessary), pinging their IM tools (which could very well be Facebook IM) and also forwarding messages to Gmail. People will be using their @facebook.com email addresses simply because it’s the best way to reach them.
Is it not a wild assumption to think that the number of people who’s Gmail accounts will just be inboxes full of Facebook mails will be significant? And why would those people continue using Gmail? Gmail and other email addresses may be relegated to just being forwarding machines to the Facebook email address, and if Facebook then decided to make a more powerful email client, what could Gmail do in response? In my opinion, not much. What do you think?