Facebook announced today that it’s launching a new messaging platform that aims to own the conversation, no matter where it takes place.
Zuckerberg told an anecdote about chatting with high schoolers who don’t use email, because they think its too slow. Addresses, introductions, signing off, all these things slow the conversation down.
“Email is not a modern messaging system,” says Zuckerberg, dismissing the rumors that had been building over the last week. “We want Facebook users to be able to communicate seamlessly across email, IMs and text messages.”
The idea is that the conversation should be persistent and instananeous, no matter how the message originates or is received. All Facebook users will now get a @facebook.com address
The second part is conversation history. “We think the email thread model is archaic,” says Zuckerberg. “One ongoing conversation, with a group or person gives users a full rich history.” All communication with individuals or groups will be stored in a single ongoing history, not broken up into threads like email.
The last, and most unique component, is the social inbox. “Because we know who your friends are, and who your friends friends are, we can do some really unique and powerful filtering.”
According to Zuckerberg, Facebook has been working on this new feature for more than a year with the biggest engineering team Facebook has ever put together for a product launch, 15, which is still tiny considering the scope of the project.
“Lot of press leading up to this called it a potential email killer,” says Zuckerberg. “We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and shut down Yahoo or Gmail and switch to Facebook only.”
So it’s not an email killer. Yet. “If we do a good job, six months from now, a year out, people will say hey, this is the way the future should work, maybe email just isn’t as important as is was before. We’re pushing things towards this seamless, simple, real time messaging, and we think that’s what people increasingly want.”
This is another attempt to vastly extend the scope of Facebook, which claims to already have 350 million users sending some 4 billion messages a day.
Zuckerberg says its fundamentally different from existing systems, which separate emails and IM. The seamless approach is interesting, but it’s not really so different from the integration of Google Talk with Gmail. It does seem to extend that model further, addings SMS and putting all the conversations in a single stream.
The real advantage, of course, is the social filtering, which could be the asymetrical advantage that makes users prefer Facebook as their primary mode of communication.
bpopper [at] observer.com