With Skype, Facebook Could Rule Messaging
ADOTAS – I still haven’t been invited to try out the decked-out Facebook Messages that CEO Mark Zuckerberg and crew announced back in November. I’d like to think it’s for personal reasons — “Gavin Dunaway?” I imagine Zuck screaming, “I’ll burn my hoodie before I give that forked-tongue bastard any more services!” — but I’ll be the first to admit I’m a small fish in the very big pond of Facebook critics.
Thus I swallowed my pride, headed over to the Facebook Messages homepage and (grrrr) requested an invitation. I’m Mr. Fancy-pants tech-blog editor — they should come to me!
My first take on Messages was that it solved a nonexistent problem — the need for a dashboard to manage email, IM, SMS and social networking communications. As I’ve written before, compartmentalization is not a bad thing, but I can see how some people would prefer a one-stop shop. It’s hard to imagine answering business-related emails from my Facebook account (although I have received a few pitches through the social network), so in theory Messages would probably be a personal messaging hub. And we need to recognize the growing divisions between email and messaging.
No, messaging is not email — which was Facebook’s reaction to a study by Which? magazine, which ranked messages as the second worst email service out of seven analyzed. Strangely enough, Windows Live Hotmail took the top prize, followed by Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and then AOL Mail, which promised a similar service to Facebook Messages last year with Project Phoenix.
“Facebook’s webmail service is very basic, lacks features and falls far short of its competitors,” said editor Sarah Kidner.
Well, that’s cause because Facebook doesn’t consider those other services competitors, the social network retorted: “Facebook Messages is not email. The focus is on creating a simpler, faster experience.”
What kind of experience? Facebook isn’t trying to kill email, as COO Sheryl Sandberg seemed to suggest last year. But time spent on email is dwindling for all age groups except the oldest as the messaging segment — near real-time communication with peers — grows. It’s akin to how people sent fewer letters once there was a telephone in every house (and now every purse/jacket pocket). “Snail mail” has never disappeared, but there’s less of it — that’s not credit card offers and other junk….
And Facebook sees the opportunity to rule the messaging segment, something it could likely do with one fell move: acquiring Skype. Reuters reports that Zuck has been involved in talks with the VOIP company and a rumored deal could have a $3 billion to $4 billion price tag — a lot higher than the $1 billion IPO newer CEO Tony Bates keeps delaying.
Another source says the two companies are just discussing a joint venture, and apparently Google has also talked to Skype about such a deal. No surprise — a Facebook-Skype deal would be bad, bad news for Google. Its video chat and VOIP offerings are the few advantages Google has left over Facebook — and those don’t always receive the greatest reviews.
With Skype in its pocket, Facebook could offer video chatting as well as the ability to call phone numbers. It really would be the online messaging hub.
And you know what else Facebook Messages doesn’t have? Ads… In particular, badly contextually targeted ads that are plain laughable when they aren’t creepy. Gmail has been promising better ads for a while now, but that just might mean display ads… Will they be as miserably targeted based on snippets from emails?
So we have to wonder — if Facebook acquired Skype or created a joint venture that displaced Gmail’s video chat and VOIP services, what would that mean for email marketing?
Your comment makes some sense to me. Who would want to blend all their personal, friend related communications with their business communications? It looks like a potential career collision course to me. But then again, I’m a Luddite that got his computer science degree when Fortran and Cobol were the rage.
I know the social media marketers are pushing and pushing to get these things merged, but like you, I resist. Who wants their Tweets showing up on their LinkedIn account? You gotta be nuts to do something like that. And, although many of my Facebook friends are real friends made through my career activities, I suspect it would be wise to do whatever you need to in order to have a firewall between them. At most, a one-way permeable membrane.
And the winner is Microsoft. I really think Microsoft have a lot of scope to use Skype in all of their products, and I think Skype will thrive with the increased user base it’s about to get.
Back to facebook however, It’s not something I have used myself yet, but didn’t they just sign a deal with T-mobile to allow voice and voice messaging over facebook?
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