Posted November 15, 2010 9:04 pm by with 4 comments

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Bang the gong. Facebook has an announcement. They’ve taken the wraps off their new messaging system which has been referred to as the “Gmail Killer.” Gmail can send the bodyguards home, they’re not in danger. . . not yet.

I spent some time watching the videos and reading the articles and I’ve come to the conclusion that my Facebook messaging preferred punctuation is not the exclamation mark or even the question mark but the ellipsis (. . . ). I chose this mark because the new roll-out sounds great. . . in theory, but in practice, I’m not so sure.

According to the Facebook promo video, the new messaging system is designed to capture all forms of communication with a single person in one place. I’m totally behind the idea. I routinely ask people to take a growing conversation off Facebook or Twitter DMs so I can track it through email. Email is my To Do list, so having a note about a project in my Facebook inbox does me no good. I also find Facebook’s current system to be klunky.

Then there are the people who insist on leaving me a voice mail, even though it makes more sense for me to reply by email. Or send me a text that requires me to respond with an attachment. In the video, they talk about people’s perfected method and how true is this? My teen will only answer text messages, my mother only reads email (even though she’s on Facebook), I have friends who will respond on Facebook faster than any email I send their way.

So Facebook’s solution is a single inbox that let’s everyone use their preferred method. You text me and I can email you. To make it easier, they’ve done away with the typical email header. I just pick a friend from my list and message away. Which brings up the first big problem. If the person I’m dealing with isn’t on Facebook then it’s more complicated.

The system also doesn’t handle voicemail or Twitter so it’s not really all inclusive. It will, however, combine what you said in chat or over an IM with the Facebook email message so you can have a running conversation regardless of the application. Nice but. . . . do we really care? Do we really need an archive of everything I’ve said to a friend via IM or email for the past year?

Facebook likens it to that box of letters from your grandfather that your grandmother’s kept for sixty years. Romantic. But no matter how much you try to sentimentalize it, an electronic archive of IM messages simply isn’t the same as a hand-written love letter.

Personally, I think the ability to go back to what was said a year or more ago is dangerous. Forget the past. Look ahead.

I do think that Facebook is on to something. I believe that we’re getting closer and closer to having a chip in our heads that allows us all to communicate without benefit of keyboard. No need to memorize a telephone number, just picture your best friend in your head and talk away.

Facebook Messaging isn’t going to replace Gmail anytime soon. It’s a whole different product. Maybe, for those who live their life on Facebook, it’s a product that will revolutionize the way they communicate, but for us less frequent visitors, Facebook Messaging is just. . .

  • David

    In the words of Homer Simpson
    “In theory, communism works. In theory”

    Its all well and good till the wheels fall off and you get hacked, all private info is stolen next thing someone has dumped your girl friend, bid on 1500 plastic cups off ebay and charged 2k of room service to your Credit card.

    • Cynthia

      OMG, that totally happened to me except they divorced my husband and the plastic cups were Pogs from the 80’s, but other than that. . totally! Curse you Facebook.

  • That’s placing a lot of trust in an entity (Facebook) that has historically not given a rip about anything other than getting your data. As Zuckerberg and crew talk to you in press events I can’t help but replay the IM’s he rattled off at Harvard wondering how his ‘classmates’ could be so stupid as to hand over their information to him. While that was a while ago that is this guy’s core. That hasn’t changed.

    Also, if we have a next generation that is uses to this kind of ‘messaging’ what kind of troubles will they have in the business world where this is not a great way to do things at all because the beauty of good old fashioned e-mail is a ‘paper trail’ that allows for full thoughts etc (granted they oftentimes overdone full thoughts but …..).

    I understand what the folks at Facebook are looking for. In theory, it does sound interesting but in the end they are a culture that is driven by an aspiring megalomaniac who can look you in the eye, say he cares then jam you in his very next breath. I am just exercising extreme caution as to just how much of my communication Facebook will ever have.

    • Cynthia

      What’s interesting about the concept is as you said, the megalomania of it all. When I’m on GMail, I don’t feel like I’m a cog in the Google wheel (even though I am) when I’m in Facebook, I feel like I’m stuck inside a fence of their making.

      Love the concept of centralizing communication, don’t love the idea of doing it on Facebook.