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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The end of e-mail as we know it? Facebook says yes, the GH Spin is not so sure.

In 1972, Ray Tomlinson transformed the way we communicate when he invented e-mail. Tomlinson used the “@” symbol to send information from one computer to another, and communication has never been the same. Now, 38 years later, 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg wants to change e-mail as we know it.

The Facebook founder announced yesterday yet another new feature for his ever-expanding social media empire – a comprehensive message system that would consolidate e-mail, texts, and instant messaging in one social inbox. In less than a month, each of Facebook’s 500 million users will receive an e-mail address (@facebook.com).

You will then be able to choose how you prefer to receive messages – text, e-mail, or Facebook account – and messages will automatically be forwarded to you in your preferred format.

Zuckerberg says that Facebook’s messaging system is not e-mail. In fact, he said in a news conference that he doesn’t think e-mail is going to be a modern messaging system, partly because it is too formal. For many, he’s right. Younger people are forgoing e-mail in favor of more casual instant messaging and texts.

There is also an important business reason behind this. The messaging system creates more chances to reach the more-than half of a billion Facebook users via ads. Some are positioning this new service as Facebook’s way to better compete with Gmail and other e-mail services.

Despite the rise of informal texts, tweets, and Facebook wall posts, The GH Spin believes there will always – and should always – be a time and place for formal communications, namely in the workplace. While your in-laws might not care if you send them a quick message via Facebook, a potential client, employer, or colleague might not be impressed with your knowledge of Internet abbreviations.

Additionally, domain names associated with e-mail addresses subliminally inform recipients about the sender. Will an e-mail from an @facebook.com account have the same clout as one from more acceptable e-mail domains, like Gmail or a company domain?

As with all technology developments, we will have to wait to see whether or not the Facebook messaging system is successful. Google recently tried to take on Twitter with Google Buzz. But the buzz faded quickly, and Google is ending the service.

Nevertheless, this new development shows how Facebook is evolving to serve the needs of those who want quick, informal communications. How we communicate and the options available continue to evolve, especially as the social network strives to be an even bigger part of our lives.

Count on The GH Spin to keep you up to date.