Many of my friends and colleagues are now using the internal Facebook messaging system more than e-mail. It has almost become an e-mail substitute. Having said that, they still check their e-mail as it is essential to daily life on the Internet. Nonetheless, messaging between Facebook members is usually accomplished within the social network rather than e-mail.
Why is this?
My guess is that people consider the Facebook system and layout much easier and intuitive than e-mail. Once a dialogue is initiated, participants can quickly and easily track the evolution of the discussion via a simple threaded interface. Time and date are displayed in a prominent manner. Even the wording is intuitive, maximizing the user experience and minimizing frustrations.
The inbox is ingenious as well. Instead of cluttering the space with individuals messages, the threaded system allows for a discussion to be grouped into one message. Little icons beside the messages indicate different conversation statuses. A blue dot indicates a new message, while an arrow indicates that you have replied. I won’t even begin to touch on all the small AJAX features that ensure a satisfying experience.
The recent launch of Facebook Mobile has also been a huge factor. Facebook members who sign up for Mobile can now receive wall post, messages, and pokes as text messages. In essence, this is like receiving e-mail to your phone for free (assuming you are registered under a plan with unlimited text messages). This can’t quite be classified as a Blackberry substitute. However, it cannot be ignored either, as cost plays a huge role for many.
The viral growth of Facebook and exploding user base further encourage such behaviour as more and more friends, family members, and colleagues join the network. It is my prediction that the success of the Facebook messaging system will only grow from here. It may only be a matter of time before the system becomes a full-blown, web-based e-mail and you can e-mail me at _____ @ facebook.com.