It appears that owning most of their users’ personal information is not enough for Facebook - they want all of it.
Last month, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a new integrated messaging service, Facebook Messages. It will combine e-mail, online chat services, text messaging, and status updates. Users can even choose to have an @facebook e-mail address! According to Zuckerberg, it took fifteen months and fifteen engineers to develop the new service. He should hope Messages gets a better reception than his “once-in-a-century shift in media” a few years back.
In 2007, Zuckerberg unveiled a new advertisement system. According to a Facebook press release at the time, the new ads plan would include “an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.”
While it may have been a once-in-a-century opportunity for advertisers, Facebook users did not welcome the policy with open arms. Zuckerberg failed to anticipate the obvious: people don’t want advertisers - or anyone for that matter - snooping on their activity. He was forced to scrap the plan after an overwhelming backlash.
Will users be more accepting of Zuckerberg’s latest plan?
Facebook is not the first company to merge multiple streams of communication into one. Google Wave had similar features - e-mail, Twitter feeds, Facebook comments, and photos - until Google ceased development for the project due to a lack of interest. Zuckerberg, though, believes he can tweak a failed concept and make it popular. Why does he hold this belief? Because high schoolers told him so.
Nearly two years ago, high school students told Zuckerberg that they did not use e-mail very often. This evidently inspired the Facebook founder, and Facebook Messages may very well be a huge success among teenagers.
Adolescents engage in two primary activities: school and friends, and communication amongst them is highly informal. Texts, Facebook messages and statuses, and e-mail are likely to be of a similar, laid back nature.
Zuckerberg may discover, though, that many adults have these things called jobs. E-mail is hugely popular among adults for a reason, and some just might have to pass up on the opportunity to have that important spreadsheet mixed in with, “Deborah is off to the mall with the hubby!”
Adults need to separate the professional world and the social world, but Facebook Messages is asking them to fuse the two together. Even if professional content is filtered out of the new system, is there really a market out there to pour people’s informal communication - status updates and texts - into one stream of messages?
Texts are different from status updates which are different from e-mails. This is why we have separate systems for each form of communication; putting them all in one place is both confusing and useless. Google already made this discovery. So will Mr. Zuckerberg.