Today Mike Arrington announced that Facebook is working on a full-fledged email product. Their plan is to destroy Gmail, Yahoo Mail and AOL Mail. If anyone can do it, Facebook can.
After all, Facebook is now the key communication tool for millions of people. This is the one place where we stay in touch with friends and business associates, plan events, etc. In fact, I have some really good friends, Chris and Alex, who have refused to join Facebook based on a personal principle I don’t quite understand. But, hey – okay. Your call. However, I’ve found that I’m not seeing them as often as I used to, largely because my social life is so tied into FB. If I’m planning a party or wanna know who wants to see to a movie, I send a note by clicking my friends’ faces. But, I have to remember to email or call Chris and Alex separately and I don’t always remember to do that. Fact is, FB is my primary address book, chat, email, and VOIP platform. Sure, I use LinkedIn and YouTube and Twitter for business networking, but when it comes to planning my social life, that’s all FB.
Compare this to Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft’s involvement in your communications: Yahoo! is about aggregated content. Google is about search. Microsoft still hasn’t really defined their differentiator. So, enhancing the FB email system (which now makes you actually go into the site to respond to something) into a fully-formed email platform really does have the potential to knock the wind out of the leading email providers.
Google still has the foothold on email today. But, let’s face it, they’ve made the email the way they want it, not how we use it. I’ve often missed important conversations because of Gmail’s wonky display. Yahoo! has great potential but they’ve been diminishing their returns on email especially given the anonymity accounts. As Arrington said today, Email is all about identity. And Facebook is ahead of everyone else in the identity game via Facebook Connect. Facebook says more than 60 million people log in to 80,000 third party websites each month via Facebook Connect. Tacking a real webmail product on top of those vanity URLs and Facebook connect is something even Google may shudder at.
Seems to be a great opportunity for Facebook and – if done right – will make the site an even stronger communciation tool.