Facebook tightens grip on communication

Column by Shannon Frazer. E-mail [email protected].

Great, another e-mail service.

That’s right. Rumor has it Facebook is to announce Monday plans for a new communication service that would allow users to send e-mail messages to other users with the @facebook.com suffix.

As if it isn’t enough for college students to be on Facebook every minute of free time they have, the new e-mail service is sure to increase use even more.

The chat service, wall postings and current messaging system aren’t enough, apparently.

According to a Nov. 12 New York Times article, the new e-mail service wouldn’t be stand-alone, similar to Gmail, Yahoo or MSN. In the article, analyst Jeremiah Owyang said that these companies should still be worried, though, because they have been (unsuccessfully) trying to add social networking features to their sites to rival Facebook.

On the other hand, Facebook has already successfully rivaled sites like Foursquare with its Facebook Places feature and online coupon sites with its feature that lets merchants provide online discounts and coupons to users via mobile phones.

Fox News reported Nov. 12 that only reporters were invited to the exclusive Monday press conference. Details have been kept under wraps, but many suspect that the news shared at this conference would then be echoed at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s Tuesday presentation at the Web 2.0 Summit.

Techcruch, who first broke the news Feb. 5, 2010, proclaimed this anticipated Facebook update, called “Project Titan,” a “Gmail killer,” but spoke highly of the potential of Facebook e-mail.

Techcrunch said in a Nov. 11 update, “Facebook knows who your friends are and how closely you’re connected to them; it can probably do a pretty good job figuring out which personal e-mails you want to read most and prioritizing them accordingly.”

While I can’t say that I’m completely against Facebook e-mail — the messaging system in place right now definitely needs some updates — I don’t agree with the principle of it.

Facebook has more than 500 million users worldwide, and Zuckerberg and fellow co-founder Dustin Moskovitz are among the world’s youngest billionaires (Moskovitz was actually named the youngest billionaire by Forbes this year). The social networking site is more popular than ever.

Do they really need to expand their market? Is a Facebook e-mail service what those 500 million users need?

Evidently, and I’m sure news outlets everywhere will report on exactly why after Monday’s press conference.

I’ll grin and bear it for now. And hey, I’m sure the Facebook e-mail service will be greatly beneficial to a lot of people. But just like the Roman Empire could only expand so far and endure for so long before it fell, I predict Facebook will one day experience the same fate.

When that happens, I’ll be curious to see how many will default to those “other” e-mail providers.