Speculation has been mounting for months that Facebook wants to be bigger than Google and the activities to achieve that. While this may be a king of the hill mindset, there is no denying the growth which Facebook has achieved. It is somewhat of a closed environment where you have to have a log on to gain entrance. Google is generally available to all unless you want to use GMail or some other service. For Facebook, the value in have an audience which has chosen to log on creates enormous power over that audience. Marketers have written at length about the value of promoting a product from inside of Facebook.
With the large audience, it was only a matter of time before they started offering other services in the enclosed site. Rumors have been circulating all day from many different sites, which some are attributing to a ZD Net article about Facebook making an announcement on Monday regarding a new Mail service, the likes of GMail, Hotmail or any of the other web based mail services. This came from a Microsoft source and not a Facebook source, but it is from the same unnamed source we hear about so often. For Facebook to create the @Facebook.com mail service would be a huge success because of the captive audience. All of this is to announced on Monday, Nov. 15th at the invitation only event.
What makes this source coming from Microsoft so interesting is other information in the rumor mill associated with this Facebook Mail service is it will include the Office Web Apps from Microsoft. This is not that far fetched as Facebook already is providing some of this in “Microsoft Docs” and means it would just be an extension of what is already there. The Office Web Apps lets you share documents with those people you have identified as friends in Facebook. If they integrate the Office Web Apps and the new Mail service, that would be a big deal and mean they have moved into direct competition with Google in another area.
Last week, there was the flap about Google changing the terms of their API service which allowed for Facebook to pull in the contact lists from GMail. It would appear that Google had knowledge of this upcoming product change and complained that Google allowed their contact lists to be imported to Facebook, but Facebook did not allow their contact lists to be pulled from Facebook.
Given how Facebook has had numerous problems over the year with privacy, they had better get this one right or it will stop before it ever gets started. Web based mail services normally provide you a way to pull the mail to your desktop computer through protocols POP3 or IMAPI. Traditionally, Facebook has always proclaimed they have a closed system and protect your information. Web Based mail is different from the services they currently offer and they are going to have to figure a way to provide access to desktop mail clients or lose a segment of their users who want that for their email.
There is much to gain here and if not done correctly, there is much to lose.