Facebook's new integrated messaging system has some pundits suggesting it could irrevocably change email, despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg's insistence that the service is “not an email killer.”
The company yesterday unveiled its upcoming Messages service, which allows users to decide which format to view conversations in from a choice of SMS, IM, or email.
Every Facebook user will be offered @facebook.com email addresses, but the firm insists the services is not email. “There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key,” Facebook engineer Joel Seligstein said.
The service has a “social inbox” which collates messages by friend accounts, and can be configured to bounce any emails not received from friends.
Seligstein said Messages will be rolled out to all Facebook users over the next few months.
Pre-release reports suggested that Messaging was viewed internally as a challenge to webmail services including Google's Gmail, but Zuckerberg doesn’t expect people to shut down their current email accounts, stating the service is “a messaging system that includes email,” WSJ.com reported.
Ovum principal analyst Eden Zoller said the service's impact will depend on how it is sold. “If Facebook positions this as a full web email service it will put Google, Microsoft and Yahoo on the defensive,” she said.
However, other industry experts rejected suggestions Messages could kill off email, noting the technology has fended off several challengers since its inception in the 1970s, and that the open messaging format could scare off older users concerned about security.
In an ironic twist, Google's Gmail website reportedly went down briefly yesterday, just hours after the Messages service was announced.