With all the speculation about what Facebook will unveil on Monday at their event in San Francisco, I thought I would chime in on if the speculation thus far makes any sense. The rumor and speculation is that Facebook intends to offer a more robust e-mail solution within the Facebook platform and is being pitted against Google’s Gmail client. There are several interesting things about this if its true that needs to be explored.
Right off the bat we have to acknowledge that Facebook already offers an e-mail solution to a degree. The main difference is that their current solution is only for registered users of Facebook and cannot be used to send a message to someone outside of the Facebook platform. None-the-less it is still called an “inbox” and has the basics features of e-mail.
The reason that a more robust Facebook e-mail solution makes sense is purely strategic but contains an emphasis on convenience. It's strategic simply because Facebook needs features that keep consumers using their platform longer. Based on some of the more recent metrics from Comscore and Nielson the average consumer spends between 10-14 minutes a day on Facebook. That amount of time means the average US Internet user spends more time on Facebook each month than Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia and Amazon combined.
The strategic value to offering services on the Facebook platform that can increase the time spent using Facebook is important and e-mail could be a great way to do that. Think about it also from a convenience standpoint. If you are already on Facebook that often and you use it more so than you do Google or Yahoo etc why not also check your e-mail while on the site? Longer time on site means more money from advertisers.
This I also see as being tremendously valuable for the mass market and in particular those whom e-mail is not a life central and mission critical thing like those of us who work in the tech business. People like my wife, my brother in law who’s in construction, grandparents etc all who feel it’s a chore to constantly check their e-mail but all who spend a great deal of time on Facebook keeping up with friends and family.
The real question however should Facebook announce this is what would your e-mail be? Will they force you to create a new one under their domain or will their solution work with your existing e-mail address? To that point I think it would be foolish if it did not allow you to configure to work with existing e-mail accounts. Changing your e-mail address and having to tell everyone you changed it is nearly as bad as changing a your cell phone number. People just don’t do it.
All of this and more however will be unveiled on Monday and we will be covering the news and providing analysis as it happens.