Is anybody out there for Fmail and another virtual world

While in New York at a technology conference last week, I learned that Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site is getting ready to launch a credible ‘Gmail killer’ by offering email to its ever growing, 500 million-plus customer base.

By Kartik Ram

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Published: Mon 15 Nov 2010, 8:37 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 10:28 AM

If Facebook succeeds, it will earn the reputation of being the world’s largest email service—something that would catch on in Dubai where bigger is always better! This game changing move would cause a tectonic shift in the Internet messaging landscape at a time when the incumbents like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are already planning hard to rejig their webmail offerings to be more in tune with the social media generation.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” speaks of companies and people who compound their head start and keep winning. This would certainly be the case for Facebook, giving it a critical lead in a crowded landscape while allowing it to leverage off its Amazonian customer insights. By the time this article prints, rumors will most probably translate into reality, as the announcement of Facebook mail seems imminent.

Speculation aside, there have been several early warnings for legacy webmail providers, as mobile social networking and the mobile Internet grows like a weed.

Push email is no longer a ‘Blackberry only’ phenomenon and mobile social clients like Nimbuzz are eBuddy are rampant. At Gitex 2010, Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of Research in Motion cited Blackberry Messenger, or BBM as it’s affectionately called, is now the world’s largest mobile social network! Facebook itself has been experiencing dramatic growth in mobile users. However, hardly anyone saw them entering the public webmail domain outside their walled garden…until now.

Facebook has an undeniable global reach into fragmented societies and countries that march to the beat of different drums. It has grown significantly but is far from peaking, as it breaks down emerging market and cultural barriers.

Adoption in the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China could easily double its user base in a New York minute. It wouldn’t surprise me if Facebook’s resident megalomaniacs claim that they will reinvent email.

Gmail now increasingly feels like Google’s Achilles Heel. While it championed cloud services by dismantling Microsoft’s aura of invincibility, it also created a blue ocean of demanding users who are now ready to graduate to a fresh approach to web-based email. Google really gets in trouble when the widgets take over. I love my Gmail screen, with its GTalk IM presence lights going green and chat streams orange as Twitter tracks and FriendFeed conversations stream in.

But the Chatter, Skype, and Facebook toaster popups and push notifications on my iPhone and iPad are slowly but surely relegating email further and further back in the pack. Widgets are creeping in from the edges and invading our screen’s real estate as Gmail is finding itself being eaten alive by these carpenter ants.

Influential blog, TechCrunch, calls Facebook email the long awaited Gmail killer. Others say it’s Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit’s project since he came to Facebook in the FriendFeed acquisition.

This may all be Silicon Valley folklore as Paul has left Facebook and joined San Francisco venture accelerator, Y Combinator to continue his angel investing without leaving any inkling of his involvement. The spin doctors at Google continue to chip away at Gmail’s notion of inevitability — panic bonuses and multi-million dollar retention offers mixed with data withholding gambits.

My hunch says that FMail not based on artificial intelligence or just social networking. It hinges around harvesting social taxonomy in the context of real-time user preferences. In simple terms, it’s a better mousetrap. Much like Formula 1 racing harnessed social media to gain stratospheric ratings, FMail will essentially redefine webmail around Facebook’s highly engaged users, thereby guaranteeing a superior user experience. Regardless of the underlying magic, FMail promises to be something to look forward to for a large percentage of its 500 million prospects!

Kartik Ram is a Dubai-based digital media entrepreneur

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