A recent research survey revealed that:
- Over 66% of web users share content with friends and family, with 50% doing it at least once a week.
- 86% of respondents still used email to share content, while only 49% said they used Facebook.
- For ages 18-24, 76% said they used Facebook to share content, compared with 70% via email
For all the tech press that the Facebook vs. Google battle receives, I think this is a more fundamental battle that is key to Facebook in the long term.
Email Is Private
Gmail’s famed creator Paul Buchheit has been with Facebook for over a year. We have not seen any noteworthy feature enhancement to Facebook’s internal messaging system for a long time. They have introduced Places, Groups, high-res Photos, and a host of other enhancements, but nothing for messaging.
This is because private messages between people are explicitly private. There is no social element involved that can be legitimately captured. Remember the Gmail targeted ad controversy? Facebook has already learnt that lesson, thanks to Google.
Email Bypasses Facebook
Email works with standard POP3/IMAP protocols and is interoperable between platforms, services, and devices from various vendors. Emails sent between web users of these different services offer no value for Facebook. In fact, Email bypasses Facebook altogether and therein lies the battle.
Facebook wants to know when you Like any content on the web. Facebook wants to be the place where you go to share content you Like. The Facebook Like button is intended to replace the Email Send button.
The Future Is Public Social Sharing
Who will win this battle? Web user behavior is largely turning to public social sharing. Emails are being reduced largely to notifications and quick messages, rather than any real content sharing. It isn’t so difficult to see where we’re headed. Just ask the 18-24 year olds.