The last round between internet giants Google and Facebook is about to be waged over email. I do not mean Zuckerberg sending flaming emails to Sergey and Larry, rather a new email service provide to the public from Facebook. Now you might say, well Facebook already allows you to send email and IM … yes but only to others on Facebook. While that would appear to be enough, since everyone and their mother is now on Facebook, there remains some who are not and therefore you could not email them.
So Facebook is looking to bring a free email service that would pull from its vast repository of social information to bring you a better emailing service. Google has already done some tweaking to Gmail but allowing your messages to be prioritized based on frequency you receive from the sender and other variables. Facebook wants to take this one step further but leveraging the relationships you have on Facebook and determining which emails are really important to you. All very interesting.
However let us not get distracted by this latest round…it is not about providing users with another free email service (Yahoo and Hotmail still lead in free email). It is all about another point of contact with users to gather data and information to better market to and sell to this same audience. Both Google and Facebook realize that the name of the game is gathering and organizing data, all kinds of it. Google has done so via search, Facebook doing it via personal networking. One might argue that Facebook’s data might be more valuable, since those advertisers, services, businesses, agencies and the list goes on all want to market to the individual whether it is to buy toothpaste, life insurance, real estate, consulting services, a tractor or a local eatery. By adding email, Facebook is looking to pull in another sliver of information about what we do and who we are.
Yahoo, Microsoft and Google should not simply look at how many new users the Facebook email service will gain, but realize that the 3rd biggest internet company is continuing to build its information empire. That is the real story behind being able to add another email handle to your profile.