Facebook’s Main Enemy Is Not Google; It Is Email

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.

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  • Anonymous

    but but there are big caveats, facebook is absent in China whereas mail is present. Can you guess what will happen now ? China already has more internet users than US and one day will have more than US + Europe. Politics interferes with economics. And there is no freaking way facebook will ever be allowed into China. And Facebook is banned in a number of islamic countries as well. And email remains important for enterprise everywhere even in US.

  • Agreed. Which is why you won’t find the word “kill” in the post 🙂

  • Anonymous

    but you suggest facebook will overtake email, which wont happen atleast not in numbers as long as China+Islamic countries(more than 50 percent of internet population) are out of facebook

  • Agreed. There is a certain context within which I frame my blog posts, and that is largely restricted to English-speaking audiences in non-restrictive regimes.

    You are right in pointing out that in context of the larger Internet population, email will likely remain dominant. The issues involved there are political and beyond the scope of what I’ve suggested.

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  • While I use gmail as an email provider, I can always swap services or setup my own mail server.

    Where is my option to Facebook? What if I’m kicked off the Facebook network?

    I don’t think 18-24 year olds understand how fragile their online networks become by trusting only a single provider.

  • Absolutely. And that’s exactly what Facebook doesn’t want people to understand and I’m afraid most of them don’t.

  • I didn’t really understand until Friendfeed was purchased. Thats when I decided any network I want to build long term friendships on should be distributed. Twitter suffers the same single source weakness.