3 Ways Facebook’s Email can be a Gmail Killer

by Jason Koertge on 02/26/2010

The secret-but-not-so-secret buzz about Facebook’s conceptualization of releasing the capability of it being a full-blown communication platform has ignited conversation all over the Internets.  Speculation is being made from either side of the field on whether it will be a Gmail killer.  Can Facebook take on the 800 lbs gorilla?  Maybe Facebook is an 800 lbs gorilla too.

Let’s think about the concept for a minute.

Google.  Everyone know’s google.  Everyone starts their search at google.com or in that nifty little search window tucked in the upper right hand corner of your screen.  Google is not only a noun, but it’s been a verb for years, YEARS!  Gmail has been around since the beginning of time.  In fact, if you were to go create a shiny new gmail account, you’d find out that like 30 other people with your exact same name have already taken up every possible contorted combination of your name – you’d end up with john3998.smith887373737@gmail.com.  WTF (what the frank?).

But, Gmail is the gold-standard. . . right?

Facebook.  Facebook has been around for a while, but it’s nothing like Google.  But, and this is a big BUT, Facebook’s user base has been and continues to accelerate.  At one point, MySpace was all the rage, but early in 2009, MySpace became a has-been when social marketers began talking about how Facebook was then the “MySpace” for grown-ups.  I keep waiting for Facebook growth to slow down and for it to turn into a trend that crumbles and whithers away with the times, but it keeps growing stronger.

The demographic with Facebook is vast.  The problem with MySpace was that it catered more towards youth.  And while that is a highly coveted demo, they age – and with age, comes maturity – and with maturity comes the desire for something more sophisticated than a bunch of cluttered band-pages with crappy looking backgrounds.

The beautiful part about Facebook is that even though tons of young people are on it, it is still very friendly, usable, etc. for the older crowd.  In fact, the fastest growing age-group on Facebook right now is women over 55.  Facebook isn’t going to have the ‘our demographic is getting too old to use our platform’ problem.

The point is – everyone and their mom (literally) is using Facebook to do all sorts of things, including share pictures, communicate, chat, message, do business, the list could go on forever.  It only makes sense to continue to build that value and add a feature that would bring even more people into the Facebook fold and commit others so that they can never leave.

Now, there is a right way and a wrong way to do this.  I think Facebook can create a Gmail killer.  Now will it ever really kill Gmail?  Heck no, Gmail will never go away, but they can certainly take some market share if they do it right.

  1. They need to offer full pop/imap functionality.  For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about: users NEED to be able to hook up whatever email client they normally use so that they can check their @facebook.com email account (e.g. Outlook, Entourage, Mac Mail, iPhone, etc.) from their computer rather than actually logging onto facebook.com.
  2. No restriction on the address names.  I read that they were talking about doing the vanity url@facebook.com.  This isn’t going to cut it.  There must be a no limitations attitude here.  It needs to be wide open.  If I want jkoertge @ facebook.com, and it’s available, I should be able to have it.
  3. They need to offer expanded functionality similar to google-apps gmail self hosted email service.  I use google apps for my email on this server, my Too Creative server and several client sites because it’s easy and it works.  I love it because if I’m not at my computer or have my iPhone handy, I can check my email as long as I have internet access.  Plus when I’m working with client sites, it makes it such a breeze to get their email up and running.  I don’t have to hassle with programming their Outlook, etc.
  4. Facebook needs to look real hard at what Gmail offers, what people like and what they don’t like (like the annoying hell of connected “strings” just because some emails have commonalities like same from name or subject line) and learn from that.  They don’t need to go half-throttle on this and roll things out along the way.  They need to open it up wide in the beginning and ride it hard all the way home.  It’s all about momentum baby.  If they get enough of it, it will swipe huge market share right away.

Google’s a behemoth, but so is Facebook.  Can Facebook take ‘em?  Actually, I don’t think Zuckerburg has the balls to come out swingin’.  My personal opinion is that they’ll putz it out, restrict the crap out of it, change the TOS 287 times and maybe get it right 18 months after roll-out.

Ding ding ding.  FIGHT!

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