Facebook Messaging is not “good enough for Government work”

No, and it’s not going to be good enough for any business either. The only possible exception will be some very small business owners. The new messaging system will be rolled out by Facebook over the course of the next months and begins today with an invite-only group of users.

The rumors around this new email system have been flying around the blogosphere for a while with the common belief that this would be a Google Gmail killer. Zuckerberg stated today that ”this is not an email killer” and was pretty clear that it also was not a Gmail killer either.

Facebook’s new messaging system, which was code-named Titan, brings together email, SMS (text messages), instant messaging (IM), and Facebook status messages into a social inbox where the most important messages are displayed in front of you. Similar to Google’s Priority Inbox, Titan will attempt to remove the noise from your inbox following these basic rules:

  • Messages from friends, and friends of friends, will display in the primary Titan mailbox. The expectation is this is where you will spend the bulk of your time.
  • All other messages, with the exception of SPAM, will go into a secondary mailbox. The expectation is that you’ll check these messages infrequently, maybe once or twice a day at most.
  • SPAM will have its own folder.

Borrowing from the concepts of the failed Google Wave product, your messages between you and an individual, or you and a group, will all be contained within a single thread. IMs, SMS messages, and emails will all be displayed within this single thread providing you with an ongoing history of your relationship with this other person or group. For this to work Facebook will have to do a stellar job with search.

Messaging routing behavior is very simplistic, as I noted above in terms of where messages arrive by default. Note that:

  • You can move threads between the message folders to define the importance of a particular social relationship.
  • You cannot get more granular, however. For example, you cannot route those jokes from a coworker to one folder while keeping work-related messages from that user in another folder. While this is sufficient for personal use it doesn’t work for most organizations.
  • Messages coming in from non-Facebook users automatically land in your secondary folder as the relationship between you and that user is unknown. You can, however, move the message.
  • I am a huge fan of using folders to organize my communications. I have hundred (literally) of email folders and this allows me to quickly find messages. This appears to be unavailable in Titan.
  • Privacy and security could be a big concern. It is unclear how messages and attachments are processed, if encryption is possible (not likely) and much more.
  • It is nice that you do not have to worry about what channel to reach users on. If someone IMs you it shows up in Titan looking the same as an SMS or email message. Your response, through Titan, is automatically routed back to the user using the same channel they used to send the message. You can, however, choose to use another channel.
  • Messages can be forwarded and you can add/remove users from your Wave, er, threads.

It is going to take months for this to rollout to all 500+ million Facebook users during which time Facebook will continue to improve upon the underlying service, add features, improve usability.

My advice to you is to spend more time using the messaging with an eye towards how this could work for your business. You have a couple of years so there is no rush, of course.

My advice to Facebook is to:

  • Add important email administration capabilities like email routing, anti-virus, and groups.
  • Integrate this tightly with Groups, Pages, and Places.
  • Add additional channels like Twitter
  • Become FISMA compliant.

I am certain this list will grow a lot as we all get our hands on Titan. In the mean-time, are there other things you are wondering about?


Originally posted on Government in Action.

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Joey White

I’m with Teri, sort of…I’m a big Gmail user and the combination of being able to tag emails and archive them makes it feel like they’re in folders even if that’s not technically how Google thinks of them.

I agree John, this likely won’t catch on, at least not in business or government, but then, most free email systems – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo – don’t.

Joey White

I use folders at work since we use Outlook and initially didn’t like the fact that Gmail didn’t use folders. However, I’ve definitely come to prefer the ability to tag emails and archive them with that tag as it really does maintain the feel of a folder. I think Google hit the sweet spot for the best of both worlds.

Scott Burns

Very funny observation about “Borrowing from the concepts of the failed Google Wave product.” This might be a little better if it brings together all messaging from all channels from an individual. I just keep wondering if there is really a broad application for this. My ongoing conversations with people are either happening professionally (not going to move those to FB; Google docs does the trick on ongoing “topics” we are discussing) or with a small network of close family and friends.

In other words, it’s unclear in my world what problem this is solving.

Also find it interesting that everyone’s talking about how conversations are getting shorter and shorter. I actually here people complain about that often. I’m not sure that a technology that encourages more “noise” and less value in my interactions with others is going to be a home run, but maybe for light social interactions that dominate life for anyone <20 this makes more sense.