Let's Cut the Hype: Facebook's Email Service Won't be a "Gmail Killer"



Facebook is launching an email service on Monday. While that’s only a rumor for now, I think it’s a well substantiated one and there is little doubt in my mind that Facebook mail is exactly what we are going to get at Monday’s event in San Francisco. Sadly, though, the meme that this could really be a “Gmail killer,” as the project is apparently internally known at Facebook, is already making its rounds in the tech blogosphere and won’t let up until Monday.

My guess is that the reality of Facebook mail will be far more banal. Facebook will give every user an address and a basic email service that will kill Gmail as much as Gmail killed Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail/Windows Live Mail.

So let’s get away from the whole “Gmail killer” idea (the tech blogosphere has always been obsessed with “xyz killers”). What matters is that this email service – if it really launches on Monday – shows how Facebook doesn’t just want to own our social network but how it also wants to be our messaging service. Groups were a step in this direction, Facebook chat was a step in this direction, as is bringing Facebook chat to Windows Live Messenger. Adding email to this is just the logical next step, but just as tagging a social network on to email didn’t make Google Buzz a Facebook killer, adding email to Facebook won’t kill Gmail.

Facebook mail invitation

It’s even hard to think how Facebook could actually make email better. Sure, this service will nicely integrate with the rest of the Facebook platform, but the great thing about email is that you can use it no matter what platform and server you and the people you write to are on.

Maybe Facebook could build a better Priority Inbox, but somehow I doubt that. It will surely also make it easy to email photos (Facebook is already the biggest photo service on the Internet). But it won’t get a lot of people to turn away from Gmail or the even more popular Yahoo and Windows Live email services. Email is extremely sticky. Most people never switch. It’s just too hard and almost never worth the effort. Professionals definitely won’t use it.

We should remember, though, that for some people, the idea of an email address actually sounds like a good idea. Those are not the people who leave critical comments on stories about Facebook mail today, though. Those are the people who will be surprised to hear about it on Monday and will leave barely readable comments on the Facebook blog, asking where to find new tips and trick for playing Farmville and how to write on their wall. That won’t make it a Gmail killer either, though.

Bonus: I got an email this morning from this blogger who discovered Facebook’s page. At first, I thought this would make for a nice scoop, but after actually looking at the site for 10 seconds, it quickly became clear that this was Facebook’s internal email. The site runs Microsoft Exchange and there is no way that Facebook would want to use Exchange for powering 500 million email accounts even if Microsoft is going to partner with Facebook and integrate its Office web apps into the new service. Of course, this story still found its way into the tech blogosphere in the form of a Friday afternoon linkbait post on TechCrunch that some actually took at face value. Sigh…

12:25 am

A Few Thoughts About AOLCrunch


According to Om Malik and the Wall Street Journal, AOL is in the process of acquiring TechCrunch, arguably the world’s foremost technology blog. For the time being, this is only a rumor, but with sources like GigaOm and the WSJ, it sure feels like a very solid rumor. It’s worth noting, though, this is not the first time we’ve heard about a possible sale of TechCrunch and none of the other possible sales ever worked out.

This time, however, it feels like the timing is right: TechCrunch is hosting its highly successful Disrupt conference right now and with AngelGate, the blog’s founder Michael Arrington just broke what could be his biggest story ever – a scoop that is so quintessential Arrington that only he could have found and written about it. If you sell your blog, why not sell it when it’s at its peak?

My personal feeling is that there is probably a kernel of truth behind this rumor. Nobody at TechCrunch is commenting, of course, but my best guess is that we will know more by the end of the week.

If this turns out to be true, then hats off to Arrington and congrats to everybody on the team (quite a few


TechCrunch writers own a share in the company if I’m not mistaken, so they could see a nice Christmas bonus this year, too)!

AOLCrunch: What Could it Mean for the Rest of the Tech Blogosphere?

As Robert Scoble noted earlier tonight, a sale of TechCrunch to AOL could herald a major shift in the tech blogosphere. Chances are that Arrington won’t stick around to become an employee at AOL and as much as he has built an amazing team at TechCrunch, the best and most interesting post on the site are still written by Arrington himself.

As Scoble also notes, without Arrington around, the site could lose its status as the go-to site for a lot of PR companies and they might shop their news around more. For the tech blog ecosystem, that could only be a good thing.

TechCrunch is currently the dominant force in tech blogging (even while I’m working for their competitor, I have to acknowledge that). I don’t think a sale to AOL will change this right away, but it could open up opportunities for current (and new!) competitors to attack TechCrunch’s status as the preeminent tech blog (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part…).

9:02 pm