I had written about Google Buzz being forced, minimally relevant and largely pointless, earlier this year. After the privacy lawsuit and the eventual settlement, it looks like it is true. I don’t see massive traction for Buzz yet. What Google Buzz did was to be audacious in its assumptions. So, it assumed that,

  1. My email contacts are also my social connections online
  2. I’m looking for a way to share all that I share with my social connections with my email contacts, that too, by default.

The lawsuit took care of the assumptions, anyway. Now, Facebook’s Project Titan makes some audacious assumptions too. Here are some of my observations.

1. The whole announcement screams, ‘This is NOT an email’, but goes on to explain that it is more than that and adds that users will get a <name>@facebook.com ID. Why? Think about it – with Facebook Connect, they went out of their core platform to be the default content ‘sharer’. So, it negates the need to come to Facebook and cross-post your content as a link…and complete that task, seamlessly, from wherever you are, online. With email, if one of the facets is to give users a <name>@facebook.com, it naturally means that they want you to ultimately ditch your existing mail provider and use it. Mark gives a timeline of 6 months+ to 2 years for this and also calls email ‘slow’. I’m not entirely sure if Gmail could be called ‘slow’, but what he perhaps means is that you go to one site for email and another site for all-things-social. Is that ‘slow’? I seriously don’t think so. But again, Facebook has 500 million opinions, at the very least!

2. The most audacious assumption is that the kind of connections I have on Facebook is IT…that is, it is THE network for me. Think about it…I have a LOT more contacts on Gmail…many may be casual contacts that I don’t need to share my favorite movies with. I have LOT more contacts on LinkedIn, again, many casual, but professional connections that I’d love to connect at the time when it makes sense. Assuming I email someone using my facebook mail ID, but to someone’s Gmail ID (I got from the LinkedIn messaging), I presume that would automatically hook us up using our respective Facebook profiles (considering that the recipient’s Gmail ID is the one he uses to login to Facebook). That…doesn’t make much sense to me – if I want to connect to someone based on our LinkedIn connection, I can do two things – mail him entirely using LinkedIn messages or mail him through the non-social/professional network email ID he has listed on LinkedIn. So, we either talk via LinkedIn (a professional network) or through email. I don’t see a role for Facebook to poke their nose here, though I understand that that is precisely what they want to do!

3. Project Titan may have been touted to be a mail system on its own…but that is perhaps largely our assumption – not Facebook’s. They just cleverly kept their mouths shut and let us go berserk with the assumptions. The only thing I’d expect out of this announcement is to see if the current, extraordinarily clunky messaging system gets at least a tiny bit better.

4. The prioritizing of email (on Facebook) is understandably based on the knowledge Facebook gathers from our friends list. And this could potentially be the Gmail killer feature…at least, Gmail-Priority-Inbox killer feature. Why? Because, Facebook could prioritize email based not just on who we know, but also based on who knows who we know. That may potentially keep spammers out, unless you’re a close pal of a spammer 🙂

The most interesting part of Facebook’s announcement is that they are doing the reverse of what Google tried with Buzz. Buzz wanted to extend what was primarily an email system, into a social network. Facebook wants to extend what is primarily a social network, into a messaging system. I think Buzz was completely off the mark in both its assumption and execution. Facebook is not – the network, by default, included parts of messaging and email, but was just horrendously clunky. They have just made it better. It is the PR around that announcement that makes a lot more assumptions than Facebook itself.

Smart…I ‘Like’ clever PR!

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