It’s In The Mail

21 03 2011

The battle for our eyeballs just intensified last week. Move over, Gmail. Facebook Email is now up and running.

Announced last fall amid a flurry of other FB changes (they tend to arrive in clumps), users were greeted last week with new features and capabilities in their FB message area. And if you think that the addition of email capabilities is a yawner by 2011 standards, think again. Email still has some life left in it.

Sure, many of my students already communicate with me via private FB message (or texting), but the old messaging system was very limited. If it was basic communication, everything was OK. But if you needed to include an attachment, you had to jump over to Gmail or your other favorite email client.

Which is another way of saying that FB temporarily lost you. And that’s not good. If anything, chalk up another small victory for FB, because they just chiseled a nice crack into Google’s armor.

Keeping those 600 million pairs of eyeballs locked into FB is priceless. The new FB Email allows for document and image attachments, and threads all communications between you and individuals (or multiple parties) into an ongoing conversation. Furthermore, it allows you to receive messages from your FB friends as well as non-friends (which are nicely tucked away into an “Other” folder).

So unless you have been away from your computer the last week (highly possible since it was Spring Break for many), you now have a new email address: yourusername@facebook.com. Use it wisely.

If you don’t even know your user name, in FB click Account–>Privacy Setting–>Settings. Usernames can be changed (as long as the one you want is available). It was in May 2009 that FB vanity handles became available, creating a small gold rush for good ones (or your name, if it happens to be a common one). If you were late to the party, you may wind up with a dot or a number in your username.

FB is to be applauded for seizing what appears to be a minor victory over a dying application, but it is indeed huge. Email is still used, in spite of the fact that more and more of what we do is simply text messaging or short FB messages. Documents do need to be sent, and not every one of our friends or acquaintances is a FB friend of ours. This opens the door to far wider communications.

All within the FB container.

And that’s just the way FB wants it. They can continue to target right-hand ads to us, through each and every message thread (cha-ching). But most importantly, they keep our eyes from straying over the fence to Google, its chief competitor.

While they’re at it, may I suggest that FB incorporate a documents editing area (like Google Docs), a better photo organizer and repository (like Picasa), and calendar (once again…like Google Calendar). They may never be able to match Google in search capability, but there are lots of smaller fruits hanging near the bottom that are ripe for the taking.

While email may have lost much of the luster it had 15-20 years ago, it is still a viable means of communication, or Google would not keep pumping money into its Gmail platform. My eyeballs just cannot believe, though, how easy it was for FB to just walk right up and pluck this baby from the tree.

Dr “amazed@facebook.com” Gerlich

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