Facebook “Project Titan”: The Future of Email?
There has been recent speculation around the Internet that has suggested that Facebook, one of the largest social networks with a user base of more than three hundred and fifty million people, is preparing to launch a new email service entitled “Project Titan”. Facebook is already known to many as being a “one-stop-shop” in the sense that they serve the ability to make and communicate with friends, store and share photos, and collaborate with groups. For many users such as myself, this makes Facebook not only one of the most enjoyable networks, but one of the most productive as well. Adding a email feature with POP3 and IMAP support would theoretically create one of the most unified system by turning your friends list into more a “unified address book”.
While the concept of a social network providing webmail to it’s users isn’t by any stretch of the imagine a new idea (MySpace tried a similar venue in 2006), Facebook may have a better chance of success because of the fact that their network caters more to the educated and professional crowd. At the same time, Facebook’s establishment as being one of the largest social networks may contribute to a roadblock for the mass-use of any future email product. This being, any employee at company that used a web filter to block social networking but allowed web-based email would more than likely be unable to access Facebook and it’s web-mail counterpart simply because Facebook is considered to be a social network.
Deployment and access issues aside, Facebook would likely have difficulties in convincing their more than three hundred and fifty million users to switch simply because some people would not want their email identity directly tied to their social networking identity. For example, a person handing out resumes would not likely want to put an @Facebook.com email address on their resumes, simply because it portrays them as being socially focused and not necessarily “professional”. However, with Facebook’s large user base (even inclusive of my 60+ year old boss), maybe Facebook’s adding of an email product would boost it’s reputation as professional tool in the professional world.
All in all, Facebook’s development of a web-mail product could potentially make their overall network more respected amongst professionals. It is definitely a product that I would consider switching to given it met all of my needs. One thing that I would hope web-mail would bring with it is a XMPP/Jabber-based embedded instant-messaging product such as the one seen in Google’s “Gmail” product. Tyeing this in to the social network and web-mail products would allow for communication among a much larger group of people (e.g. Google Talk users), and, for many people, myself concluded would be the “cherry on top” in making a decision to switch email providers.