Has Facebook jumped the shark?

For a social media blog there is a distinct lack of Facebook chat around these parts. 

I guess the reason for that is because I try and keep my advice at a strategic level. The basic fundamentals of social media work across all of the social networks (and offline in many cases). 

Sometimes though, I have to get specific. And Facebook this week have launched something of an audacious attack on email as we know it.

 Their new Messaging system aims to make communicating easier by making Facebook the single source for conversations utilising email, instant messaging and SMS. They want to put themselves at the very centre of all of your messaging needs as they continue in their quest to own the internet. 

I’ve got a few issues with the whole thing:

  1. Who owns the data? They say that they want to be able to store all of your communications for your entire life. That’s a lot of valuable content for Facebook to use. This is going to raise a whole new set of privacy concerns, not just in terms of what they allow you to make private and what they won’t, but also around just how vulnerable all of this stored data will make those users who haven’t considered the long-term implications.
  2. SMS has a 160 character limit, Twitter has a 140 character limit, instant messaging services have differing character limits while email it boundless. What happens when I get an SMS and feel the need to reply using more characters, sure, I could switch to a different medium but that would mean that my conversation partner, if they weren’t signed up to Facebook, wouldn’t even necessarily know that I’d replied.
  3. Why bother? Seriously. Email is the single most established facet of the internet. SMS is a crappy old system for mobile phones which will inevitably die anyway due to what is now an arbitrary character limit. Instant messaging is built into most apps already and is pretty useful for quick, app specific chat. Facebook are basically rolling out an alternative to email without many of the useful elements such as bcc, subject lines etc. It’s really not that great.

 Facebook used to be a great website whose focus was on helping people stay in touch. It did that incredibly successfully. Now it wants to BE the internet, at the expense of all the other well established and useful tools that already exist. It’s lost its focus and is firing out new elements too quickly for anyone to keep up.

 For the foreseeable future it will remain the best place for communicating with your old school friends and your granny at the same time. It’ll also remain be a rich resource for businesses to engage with their customers. But these elements have been around since the beginning. The new stuff like Places, Marketplace, Messaging and the like are not enhancing that in any way. Let’s see how many of them are still there in 2 years time.


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