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November 16, 2010

Facebook introduces new messaging service to rival Google, Yahoo, AOL

Merge texts, online chats, and e-mails into one central hub

By CBR Staff Writer

Facebook has introduced its new messaging service, which the company says will merge texts, online chats, and e-mails into one central hub.

The social networking firm aims to tie users to its site with this new product, and has ramped up competition with AOL, Yahoo with over 273 million users, Microsoft with nearly 362 million and Google.

At an event in San Francisco, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg told reporters and analysts that maybe the company can help push the way people do messaging more towards this simple, real-time, immediate personal experience.

Seen as an alternative to Gmail, the new service will simplify how people communicate whether it be via text, instant messages, online chat or e-mail, BBC reported.

The new service provides with a social inbox in which all these messages will come into one feed, allowing users to reply in any way they want.

The news agency reported that the new system will be modelled more on chat than traditional e-mail with no subject lines, cc or bcc fields. The new system stores conversations so as to provide users with an archive; and has three folders for incoming messages – one for friends, another for things like bank statements and a junk folder.

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dotMailer MD Tink Taylor said it’s no surprise that email in its original form remains at the centre of this announcement, and as a protocol, email is hard to beat even though many, including Google Wave, have tried.

"Facebook’s move to blend email with other services, while still keeping it in its original form, is a smart move," Taylor said. "Ultimately, the announcement underlines the idea that electronic mail, in all its forms, is not only the universal communication force surrounding social apps but may soon become inseparable from them. The best practice guidelines that savvy email marketers have always followed still apply; email marketing messages need to be relevant and targeted if they are to get results. But I wonder if the new opportunities with Facebook Messages will be greater still."

Taylor added: "We’ve been advocating the potential of combining email and social media and this move merely makes the two even more more closely linked, and not to mention the opportunities that are now possible with the addition of IM and SMS in this new ‘social inbox’."

"It will also be interesting to see whether Facebook decides to open this new messaging platform up to brands with Facebook Pages as a way to communicate with their fans. As the inbox becomes more of a ‘social centre’, brands need to change how they approach this new type of email user. Facebook is a very personal space, much more so than the traditional email inbox, so a personalised, social approach will be absolutely vital," Taylor continued.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, looked at the announcement from the security point of view. "Users need to be aware that Facebook will be storing a complete archive of all of their communications with one person – this raises concerns as to how this data could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. With this in mind, it will be critical for Facebook to implement more effective filtering mechanisms to prevent fraudsters from manipulating Facebook users into falling victim to new spams, scams and
phishing attacks."

Scobleizer.com technology writer and founder Robert Scoble was quoted by BBC as saying this is something new and very powerful because Facebook can tap into his social graph and ensure that only his friends are there.

"This is a new kind of communications system but it’s not game over for Yahoo and Gmail and all the others because it will take decades to get people to stop doing traditional e-mails," Scoble said.

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