You've no doubt heard or read about Facebook's new messaging announcement this week. If not, the company announced a new messaging system to combine email, SMS, IM, Chat, and other forms of online communication, bringing them into one inbox. Along with this comes @facebook.com email addresses. CEO Mark Zuckerberg described the system as "starting from scratch" as opposed to being a Facebook email product.
Pat Matthews, SVP of RackSpace's cloud computing business, which includes business email, shared some thoughts with us about the impact Facebook's new offering will have on the email industry. RackSpace itself powers business email for over 2 million users.
"I don't think Facebook will encroach on business mail, at least not anytime soon, mostly because of the security and privacy implications," Matthews tells WebProNews. "Facebook is very consumer oriented and I don't see this crossing into business anytime soon. Mark Zuckerberg has specifically stated the company is all about consumers. His focus is leading them to greatness."
"I do think consumer mail is at risk," he adds. "Consumers live in Facebook, not on Google. I think that Gmail and AOL should be worried."
Still, Google has Google Apps going for it, which it has now expanded to encompass most of the company's offerings. That could play a significant role in keeping businesses using Google, though Gmail has always been a part of Google Apps. I have to wonder if Google's news wasn't somehow spurred by Facebook's.
"Facebook users will use Facebook mail as an extension of their already popular messaging services," says Matthews. "I have no doubt this will be extremely popular."
"Facebook is one of the most innovative companies on the planet," he adds. "I think that they will influence all types of applications, business and consumer."
It's no secret that businesses are already placing a great deal of emphasis on reaching Facebook users, and it will be very interesting to see the impact the new messaging system has on their strategies. I've already speculated that we'll start seeing more businesses utilizing personal profiles to try and get into Facebook users' primary inboxes (as the system filters messages that aren't from "friends" into a secondary inbox).
Social media and email have been getting closer and closer with one another for some time already. "In the past, organizations supported collaboration through e-mail and highly structured applications only," said Monica Basso, research vice president at Gartner, who predicts 20% of employees will use social networks as a main business communication tool by 2014.
"Today, social paradigms are converging with e-mail, instant messaging (IM) and presence, creating new collaboration styles," she said. "However, a truly collaborative, effective and efficient workplace will not arise until organizations make these capabilities widely available and users become more comfortable with them. Technology is only an enabler; culture is a must for success.”"
When asked what Facebook's new system means for the larger trend of social networking and email converging, Matthews told WebProNews, "Consumers want one view for many things but they also want very different views for their personal and business lives. This is why I really think Gmail should be worried."
It is worth noting that our conversation with Matthews took place before Google's announcement, so I'll have to find out if this changes his opinion on that. Update: He says, "They are proving they're worried by doing this. All of these apps already existed so I doubt this move will make that big of an impact. The main thing Google needs to worry about is the fact that people are living their personal lives inside Facebook. They're going to want their personal email and apps where they already live."
What do you think? Should Gmail be worried?