Sunday, November 21, 2010

Facebook Email not close to Gmail

The much-awaited Facebook email service (Project Titan) was finally announced on Monday. Facebook email is actually part of a larger, simplified communication system called Facebook Messages. Facebook Messages will have email, SMS, chat conversations with your Facebook friends under one thread.

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague, Nikhil Pradhan, and his views on how Facebook email could actually beat Gmail -- but in all fairness, his article was written before Facebook's email announcement. Although Facebook email (and Facebook Messages) definitely has convergence and simplicity of use going for it, but from the evidence of Facebook's announcement and Facebook Messages' first look, the service is far from upsetting Gmail -- let alone kill it. Here's why:

Threaded conversation: Most Gmail users prefer Gmail's email conversation view -- it was the first webmail service to have email conversation view back in 2004. Emails on the same subject appear as threaded conversations in Gmail, putting the latest email right on top of the pile. Facebook Messages will have emails, SMS, chats between two individuals as one thread -- irrespective of the subject. This may get confusing after a while, and the length of scroll over time difficult to manage if Facebook continues with posting the most recent update to a conversation at the bottom of the pile.

Spam: To put it simply, Gmail has a pretty robust spam filter deployed to prevent spam from reaching your Gmail inbox. It has a spam-filtering mechanism that learns when Gmail users report a spam email. Historically, Facebook has had trouble stamping out spam attacks in messages and chats. Facebook has said it will deploy an unnamed third-party filtering mechanism for inbound emails for Facebook email service, but as of now Gmail still triumphs.

Multiple Email Accounts: I currently use multiple email accounts (Gmail and others) to send and receive email from my Gmail inbox. This makes Gmail central to my webmail experience -- it works great for anyone who has multiple email accounts and doesn't want to use several email clients or access multiple inboxes.

IMAP support: Facebook email won't have IMAP support -- which is a popular email protocol. IMAP really helps if you're accessing your inbox from different locations or different devices. Gmail includes IMAP support.

Attachments: Facebook emails will only be able to preview attached Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and Excel files within their browsers -- through Facebook and Microsoft's Docs service. It won't preview PDFs, for example -- something that Gmail does.

SMS/Chat/Phone: I understand it's great and will help Facebook users when email, SMS, and chat comes under one Social Inbox. But Gmail has already converged the three a while back -- it has Gmail chat, SMS, and Gmail free phone calls, all within your inbox window. Facebook just goes one step ahead by converging different forms of communication under one thread -- as far as services offered, there's nothing new or groundbreaking.

via pcworld

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