FMail vs GMail: a skeptical view of Facebook and Google email

Apparently Facebook are launching an email service. The chattering reached such a pitch even a Luddite like me heard it. So I asked the IT Swami to predict what this will lead to.

I'm too old to be a Digital Native. Personally I don't even use Facebook let alone Facebook email. So clearly I'm not a Digital Immigrant either. More of a Digital Amish. I adopt what I need and value. To many, that means I have nothing to say about the current hype over Facebook email. Let me suggest that it gives me a useful perspective.

Every year I wait for Google to "be evil". They've slipped from their holy perch a few times but mostly I continue to marvel at the value Google deliver to me on many fronts and the restraint they show in not screwing me as a result. I've sold my soul to Google. As I say they're not perfect but I'd much rather be in thrall to Google than Mickeysoft or Facebook, both of which organisations are clearly bastards. So at a corporate level I am far from objective about this and I declare that up front.

As for the email systems themselves, it has been suggested that Facebook has an advantage because of their knowledge of the social graph, who is connected to who. Questionable on three levels:

  • There are still some of us who don't use Facebook
  • Those who do use it, often use it for one half of their life - the social half. The business half is networked somewhere else, such as LinkedIn. (Those who confuse the two really do need to get their act together: merging digital personas is not a good look.) It's the business half that more urgently needs prioritisation.
  • Sooner or later Facebook have to stop being evil and open up access to the social graph data

I asked the IT Swami how this would pan out. He looked at me as if this was the stupidest question he's had all year and replied "The real power struggle is on a much larger scale, between Facebook's dominance of social interaction (connecting, sharing, gaming), and Google's dominance of knowledge (search, digitisation, preservation). In the long term, good wins over evil and vision wins over greed. Facebook may be on a high now but one day - perhaps when the impending Real Recession comes - they'll weaken and Google will swallow them up".

I'm not sure about "good wins over evil and vision wins over greed". For those of us who remember Digital Equipment Corp, this isn't so clear. But Google is the better-managed company so I'm going along with the Swami.

In the meantime, I think the pundits getting all hysterical about an epic battle between email systems overlook a simple fact; email is just email. For most of us it still works OK the way it is. Only people who wear a computer on their belts get so excited about some cool feature that it drives them to switch email systems. Sure FMail will take a bite out of GMail. That doesn't mean it will overwhelm it. And just as surely, Google will bite back.


Facebook and Business don’t always mix

Facebook and business don’t always mix (like alcohol). My colleagues and business partners probably don’t want to know I had 15 pints of beer and vomited down my wife’s back. Even if close friends think my vomiting is fun.

However it may work as a social media campaign for Each business should assess if a social media strategy is right for them and manage it appropriately.

For me Google is the clear business winner. Social users don’t spend money and Facebook is their downtime after a long day in the office.

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