First it took our children, and we had to join just to find out what they were up to and now Facebook is about to take on the app that made the Internet the communications behemoth that it is today - email.
Email has been on the ropes for some time now, what with kids turning first to instant messaging and then text while others tweet and Skype. There just doesn't seem to be as much reason to check your emails on a minute by minute basis the way we Internet junkies used to.
The final nail in email's coffin arrived this week when Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg rolled out his company's new messaging service proclaiming it will add "a lot of friction and cognitive load" to communications whatever that means.
Zuckerberg seems to think his new service which he affectionately refers to as that "Gmail killer" will help us older folks wean ourselves off email entirely. There are a quite a few folks who would disagree.
As far as AOL is concerned, email is making a comeback even if it is a bit old-fashioned. Besides, even Facebook's new messaging system is just another form of email that includes chat, text messaging, and status updates.
Zuckerberg says it's really a way of bringing various messaging systems together in one place, so you don't have to remember and separately track how each of your friends prefers to be contacted. He also promised that Facebook's system will be in real time -- no delayed e-mails about conference calls or meetings you've already missed. But of course, the biggest draw will be that users get their own @facebook.com e-mail address. So much for the end of email.
As for AOL, its new messaging service, called Project Phoenix, won't integrate everything into one stream of messages. AOL's new web based e-mail program will focus on keeping things separate but equal within the same screen, under different headings for text and chat messages. It will, however, gather all your e-mail from various accounts, public, private, and professional, into one e-mail in-box. More importantly, AOL promises that unlike other services, it would be easy for non-technical users to make it work.
AOL's Phoenix is due to arrive early next year and will also have a few convenience features. A "quick bar" allows you to send responses, whether the original message was an IM, text or e-mail. Attachments (up to 25 MB and unlimited storage) will also appear as thumbnails in a right-hand preview window and an address in a message invokes MapQuest directions. For security, you can set it to only preview attachments from friends in your contact list.
Stepping back, I'm starting to think
that having a service that throws everything at me in one place,
could be a little overwhelming. In fact, I'm starting to get
nostalgic over another old-fashioned communications device that
lets you interact with people in real time. I think it was called
the telephone. Maybe it's time to dust it off and give someone a
call. The thought just gave me a chill.