Facebook messaging had its beginnings as two separate features.
- One, as an instant messaging (IM) popup within the site, and
- The other as an unrelated private messaging function.
To me, their stroke of brilliance came in the merging of two features into a unified whole. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if you were talking with chat or sending a message – the history would be retained as a single thread. Most of the people you know are already on Facebook, so it makes even more sense to drop a message right off Facebook, instead of sending an email (which could possibly be an old an unused account).
Messaging became what it should have been along – an easy means to pop a message over to your friend without caring about the function.
This however, was only the immediate impact of Facebook messaging. Its true value lies in the potential to overtake email. Sound stupid? If you think about it, Facebook messaging is fast becoming the instant messenger, bypassing the soon-to-be-obsolete Windows Live Messenger (WLM) and Skype.
Microsoft made a smart move in announcing the eventual closure of WLM, and its intention to utilise Skype as its messaging application of the future. Unlike WLM, Skype still holds firm in its strength as a combined IM/voice/video application, and will prove to be a safer bet in the fight against Facebook.
On to email. If you hadn’t realised it, Facebook messages are capable of sending messages to email addresses. Granted Facebook messaging is unable to provide some of the features standard email is capable of e.g. subject header, BCC, forwarding, sorting by labels or folders, it nonetheless is a powerful tool for messaging across platforms to reach non-Facebook users.
A new feature was added recently, one which allows file attachments to be directly posted on a message thread. File attachments: does that sound like email to you?
Facebook may not be what email is right now. Given sufficient time however, they will get there.