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Op-Ed: How Facebook could potentially replace e-mails altogether

By Milton Este     Mar 23, 2013 in Technology
Communication is becoming more and more convenient by the second. Perhaps not by the second, but as time progresses, so does the efficiency when it comes to communication.
I don't know about you, but I hardly ever mail anything now. Why not? Well, snail mail is taking far too long especially now with electronic mail and social media available for communication. Snail mail might not be replaced any time soon, but social media sites, especially Facebook, could potentially replace e-mails altogether!
So how is this possible? Well, Facebook can actually solve some of the very serious issues faced with current e-mail services such as GMail, Outlook (Formerly known as Hotmail), Yahoo! Mail, Global Mail Exchange (GMX), and other smaller e-mail services.
While the traditional electronic mail messaging system focuses on having an in-box to communicate with other users, Facebook uses more of a social setting, and this actually has its benefits.
For starters, the new Microsoft Outlook web email over-complicates the messaging process with a separate page to handle attachments through Skydrive and contacts. The constant switching back and forth is very inconvenient, not to mention annoying. Every time I send a message to an e-mail address not in my contacts list, I'm prompted to add them in. If I choose to, I switch over to the "People" page where this is handled.
Google Mail (GMail) handles this a lot better, but needless to say, they do have their flaws. As for Yahoo! Mail, they are facing a very serious security issue with accounts being hacked. Only recently have they decided to add HTTPS connection (encryption) support.
So how does Facebook simplify this? Rather than having a separate "contacts" list, it's more efficient to just classify friends. After all, the majority of us really just communicate with friends and family, people we know in other words. And this, in fact, solves a major problem faced by the e-mail services mentioned: spam!
Facebook actually has a setting specifying those that can private message you. Set the option to friends only, which is pretty much your contacts list, and you pretty much block out all unwanted messages. Just think about it! This solves all the Nigerian Prince wishing to share their wealth with you scam, password reset from a bank account you never registered identity theft, and simply random phishing spam you have no interests in.
With that said, messaging amongst people you know is quite convenient. However, what about with companies, blogs you subscribe, and other external contacts? This can be tricky, but not impossible. Companies are taking the advantage of social media to promote goods and services cheaply. This offers direct contact through so called "Pages" you've liked. This is, of course, not to mention sites with the "Log In With Facebook" option. Features like these allow for a centralized communication zone, completely filtering out unwanted messages. In order to receive messages, members must "friend" the message sender, otherwise ignore if wishing to block communications.
Furthermore, this is not to mention that Facebook's application equipped services allow for better and more reliable communication. The last time I checked, Microsoft's Outlook allows the sending of a maximum of 50MB total size attachments. GMail and Yahoo! Mail aren't far behind with relatively the same amount. In order to send larger files, the user must require the registration of another service specializing in file hosting in order to successfully send the files.
Although this isn't a full fledged feature yet, Facebook could potentially make it one by working with various file hosting services such as DropBox, MediaFire, iDrive, Box.net, and so on to developing applications for handling larger files. The benefits of this include the ability to simultaneously upload to multiple services and share with friends by syncing with other Facebook accounts or even groups.
Why this may be a better choice? All free e-mail services run advertisements making it very annoying for users to read their daily dosage of messages. Both Yahoo! Mail and Outlook (formerly known as Hotmail) run advertisements in the form of banners on the right hand side. GMail, cleverly, integrates text link advertisements in their service as to keep the e-mail service free.
So in terms for Facebook, their source of revenue lies not within advertisements, but with the revenue sharing of services provided by their various applications. Facebook's current revenues are mainly composed of application purchases through Zynga so why not expand this service to a more practical usage?
Finally, for e-mail client users, this may not be a desired switch for you. E-mail clients such as Mozilla Thunderbird offers the ability to back up and download messages locally. However, that's not to say that Facebook cannot do it more efficiently. As mentioned earlier, through the right applications, it is possible to live sync/ backup messages for those users that prefer it this way.
In fact, this can actually replace the need for a client entirely. Facebook is considerably more portable than any e-mail service. Accessing Facebook on a mobile is considerably faster than trying to load the mobile page of Outlook.com or Gmail.com, and especially Mail.Yahoo.com. Also, it would probably be wise to mention that this would provide a better cross platform message reading support as well.
Will this come anytime soon? Probably not, but Facebook is on the right track for making supporting this more efficient communication medium.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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