News that Facebook is releasing its own messaging system came as little shock this week. But there are at least two interesting things about it.
First, this step should not be seen as a major strategic intrusion by Facebook onto the turf of others. By doing this, Facebook is doing to Gmail and Yahoo! what they have been trying to do to it for some time – i.e. blend an email service with a social networking operation. This time, the difference is the direction of change, as Facebook leverages its social network platform to establish a communication platform, rather than the other way around.
Second, watch for big changes in the shape of email as a result of this. Not just because it’s Facebook who’s doing this; because the product they’re launching is very different to what we understand email to be, and this is going to be disruptive. Get ready for electronic communication in the future that is text messaging, instant messaging and email all rolled into one. Google Wave tried to do something like this and it didn’t work. Facebook has taken longer than expected with it, and is more likely to get it right.