Another Email Address for the Pile
On Monday, Facebook is holding a surprise launch event where it will unveil, what 95% of the tech press believes, will be a new email service to rival the likes of Gmail, Hotmail and others. The event will precede Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg's appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit where the news will go down like a lead balloon among the dominant email players.
With Google having struggled to innovate recently with Wave and other projects, there is no guarantee of success, but an email service for the millions of Facebook users is unlikely to fail. Users will become increasingly tied to the one site and find it natural do to their email alongside their social updates and game playing.
The Business Impact
The result will see more advertising dollars sucked Facebook's way, and for social use -- at least -- an easier way to keep in touch with friends. However, it is highly unlikely that any business, small or large, would want an firstname.lastname@example.org account, so it won't impact on the vast amount of corporate email traffic.
One positive result could be a neater delineation between a user's personal and business email as friends and family flock to Facebook's service, leaving your business email for more professional content. Facebook's project, formerly called Titan, may well integrate Facebook's, rather weak, chat service and other contact systems to create something that will work well on the desktop or mobile.
Facebook Email Could be Disruptive
If it works, "Facebookmail.com" could become a disruptive force and help shape unified communications in the social space. It will certainly push Google and Microsoft to improve their efforts. Gmail gets regular updates and new features, but how many of them do you actually feel the urge to use? That urge might grow if all your friends are using them.
While it may take a long time to challenge the likes of Gmail, every percentage point of market share it takes in the email market would equate to hundreds of millions of dollars in extra revenue from ad impressions. Google will no doubt try to defend its position (like this, if you try to export your Gmail data) but despite Facebook's regular privacy woes, once the herd starts stampeding, it will be hard to stop.