By all accounts, Facebook is rolling out an email service. It's pretty much the most-leaked Facebook announcement I've ever seen, actually, so I'd be shocked if that wasn't the case. Not sure what they'll call it yet.
There's a bit of speculation that since Facebook bought up the domain fb.com, that will be how it works (firstname.lastname@example.org). (UPDATE: Facebook employees will be the ones using the new @fb.com address, while Facebook users get access to @facebook.com.)
Regardless, it's a pretty big move. As we've been saying on this subject, it puts Facebook at the center of your web experience. Now instead of checking your email and your Facebook first thing in the morning, you can just go to one spot and stay there.
What about the "walled garden"
It's a bit like AOL circa 1995 with the concept of a walled garden but whereas AOL wanted to you to stay with them and never go out into the web, Facebook wants to be your unshakable Sherpa as you explore the web and tell it everything you see and how you feel about it.
Speaking of the garden of AOL, the company today announced Project Phoenix, the long-awaited overhaul of its email service.
*Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a special event announcing a new Facebook email messaging system at the St. Regis Hotel on November 15, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) *
Facebook unveils "social inbox"
At a press conference today streamed live over the Internet, Facebook Product Manager Andrew Bosworth led reporters through a presentation of the new email and messaging platform at today's event, simply dubbed "Messaging" and formerly known under the code-name "Titan."
The messaging platform focuses on three main elements: what it calls the "social inbox," message history, and "seamless messaging," smart technology that routs a user over various platforms including instant messaging, an email inbox, or Facebook.
The social inbox is a tool that sorts messages based on priority. If an incoming message is from one of your existing Facebook friends, it gets sorted differently than messages from non-friends, essentially making your Facebook friends list go double-duty as a spam filter.
Facebook email vs. Gmail
When asked by reporters about how the email service will compete with Google's gmail, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that the company was not trying to invent a Gmail killer.
"I think Gmail is a really good product." Zuckerberg said. "In reality, I think that they [Google] have a great product." But he added that Facebook's social-centric platform is a "simple kind of messaging" aimed at the changing way in which people communicate online.
Bosworth added: "It works fine with Gmail users."
During a question-answer segment with reporters, Zuckerberg responded to a question about how the system will integrate with its advertising business.
"The advertising works the same way as it does on the rest of Facebook," Zuckerberg said. "In general, our ad system is based on what the user puts in."
He noted that it doesn't use targeted ads based on tracking your Internet behavior, but rather based on your Facebook behavior.
But will it work?
Even as the announcement was taking place on stage - even as it just started - there was a new term already entering the web lexicon: "Facebook Wave". That, of course, is a reference to Google Wave, the last hugely ambitious program started by a big company that promised to be the next breakthrough step in messaging.
Wave purported to be a lot like what email would be if email were to be invented today. But Google Wave proved to be both confusing and unnecessary and Google scrapped the whole idea. Now Facebook unveils something that they call the evolved form of email but it's already reminding the twittering classes of the Wave that crashed.