Facebook is burying email, or so it wishes

Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg announced last week at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference that email is a thing of the past: "[...] if you want to know what people […] will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today, and the latest figures say that only 11% of teenagers email daily. So email […] is probably going away. So what do teenagers do? They SMS and increasingly they use social networking."

Facebook wants to keep its 400 million users confined to the Facebook site, and it has been pretty good at it. That includes having a virtual currency, introducing Paypal as a payment for advertisement –a sure hit for small businesses–, open graph (the successor of Facebook connect), which now aims at Google with its open graph search. Facebook is becoming more and more a one-stop web experience – the AOL of this generation.

And naturally Facebook would love email usage to be replaced with social networks like themselves. The reason is that email addresses of targeted consumers are difficult to obtain, and advertising via email is seen very negatively as spamming. So claiming that “email […] is probably going away” is a message directed at marketers and advertisers, telling them that Facebook, as it becomes a primary communication mean, will also be the primary framework for connecting with consumers.

But it is too early to bury email. Somehow Facebook’s COO forgot to say that you need an email account to create a Facebook account. Or that many Facebook users rely on email for Facebook notifications to keep up with their friends’ updates. Also she didn’t quote properly the Pew Internet report that she pulled out the 11% figure from. In reality this figure is “the % of teens who contact their friends daily by different methods”, so it doesn’t include email usage outside of the friend and family circle. Teens use SMS and social media more than their parents, not because they reject email, but because they communicate mostly with their network of friends and family. Once in the active life, email will be one of the tools they use daily, like most of their parents, as email is still the preferred way of communication in the business, and formal world.

Long live email!

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kayzee said,
I finally managed to delete my Facebook profile yesterday... it was a hard decision but right now it feels great!

Facebook rocks, why did you delete your account

SMS is a past as well. I don't know anyone who using it. IM and voice/video calls - that is what popular now. Private social messaging is hardly popular as well as urgent instant messaging. It's more popular just as relationship support.

I have been using facebook for exactly the same purpose since I weaseled my way in when it was still college-only (mid 2006) - keep track of friends, see pictures, write on friends' walls and the occasional poke. I've lost count of the number of "apps" I've banned off my newsfeed. Facebook is fine as a place to catch up with friends (specifically friends whom you can't just get lunch with), but a replacement for email? Nah.

I have never used facebook, and never plan on it either, even though my co-workers, and even my own mother use it, I can not bring myself to joining any form of social networking. When I need to contact someone I still know how to pick up the phone and dial the number, or in a pinch I have sent text messages, but I have never felt the need to create an online identity just so random people can spam me, plus after reading about the privacy issues, and a RWN article that I posted about a waitress who was fired for venting about a customer on her facebook page leads me to believe that I am much better off without the aide of social networking.

jnelsoninjax said,
I have never used facebook, and never plan on it either, even though my co-workers, and even my own mother use it, I can not bring myself to joining any form of social networking. When I need to contact someone I still know how to pick up the phone and dial the number, or in a pinch I have sent text messages, but I have never felt the need to create an online identity just so random people can spam me, plus after reading about the privacy issues, and a RWN article that I posted about a waitress who was fired for venting about a customer on her facebook page leads me to believe that I am much better off without the aide of social networking.

+1 I feel the same way and anybody who uses facebook to write about anything is talking to the world. I will admit to having a facebook account when it first came out - but it asked too many personal questions - it wouldn't save my account info with so many blanks so I just closed the page. It was a sweet short encounter.

so unsolicited crap in email is spam, but unsolicited crap on facebook which they force onto you is not spam? right facebook, keep living in your own warped world.

Well, I guess they bet on the fact that people are kind of used to ads on web pages and windows that pop up unexpectedly. It's less (?) aggressive that email that you need to check and delete after you realize there's nothing of value. After all, ads is still pretty much the only way of making money on the Web. W/o ads, we would has pay for services (webmail, news, entertainment, etc) that nobody ies ready to pay for.

seta-san said,
i really wish someone would bury facebook

+1

facebook is for useless and unimportant info. Do you really care what your "friends" are having for lunch or the fact that they walked their dog and are bored with life? Real geeks don't use social networking, they use IRC.

The only reason i use facebook is to keep up with my friends which live abroad, people who use it for games are just SAD.

Python96 said,
The only reason i use facebook is to keep up with my friends which live abroad, people who use it for games are just SAD.

Yet people who play games on other platforms are not sad? The only way your thinking might possibly work is if you believe that people who play games on other platforms (XBox, Windows, phones, iPods etc) are also sad. Playing a game on Facebook is no different than playing a computer game elsewhere - one is still playing a computer game.

The 11% is from the Pew Internet report (link is in the article...), but that's only to communicate with friends. It doesn't include communication outside the friends circle, so it's out of context. The same report actually says that "Fully 41% of all teens say that they never use email when communicating with their peers outside of school. While not used often for informal peer interactions, email is used in more formal situations such as in school and by parents and other adults".

Sorry, the businesses still use email and that's the only thing they can rely on because they can control it. There's an issue of privacy. A bank or any other corporation is unlikely to outsource their internal communication to someone else. They'll never use gmail or facebook.

What could be going away is the SMTP + POP/IMAP combination, but in principle, electronic messaging is here to stay for a long time. It doesn't matter which form it takes: SMS, Facebook messaging, forum private messages, IM, and so on. It's all a wash.

When Sandberg says: "if you want to know what people […] will do tomorrow, you look at what teenagers are doing today" she's talking marketing strategy from 20 - 30, maybe even 50 years ago -- not that smart from a company trying to present itself as the future. ;-)

When today's teens reach adulthood & have max effects on society, they'll be a shrinking minority. Maybe they should start marketing themselves to people far closer to retirement? Those folks are much more interested in ways to maintain the relationships & networks they have now, & will sooner find themselves with a lot more time on their hands to use Facebook [or a competitor] doing just that.

Maybe for teenagers, but they still need an email to use it's services. I like my email, but I mostly use it FOR SMS via google voice.

So because this cheeseburg guy want us to stop using emails and use their website we should stop it?
as nocture said "Go away facebook"

lol what nonsense, they said this when email became mainstream, the death of faxes & snail mail.......has that happened.......NOPE!
Most businesses would never dispose of email, just as much as most businesses still have a good old faxline to a pstn fax machine!

An email in business can be a legally binding document, just as a business letter or contract is, facebook and other social networking sites wouldnt ever be.

A case of a delusional COO, lay off the Kool-aid Sherly!

Well, today I received an email from Facebook, about message from a member that had some private pictures that she wanted to share with me. Boy did I feel special! Is Facebook turning into the new way to spam?

(and, yes, I did report it as spam. Hopefully others that received the same message did as well and the account will be suspended)

That's about the stupidest thing I've read for the day, but the day is young so hopefully something beats this. I can't even imagine my job without email.

As soon as you start working, you use email A LOT. Before I started work I used it occasionally (to check mailing lists, FB messages, etc..). But now email is what is always open and gets used a lot.

Doesn't facebooks crappy pathetic emails count as 20% of all emails sent in the world yet? Should all be blocked by spam filters along with those darn chain emails too.

Hahaha, maybe a bit too premature. I can't wait for the day that my boss makes me get a facebook account at work to stay in touch with me. For now, I'm sticking with me e-mail.

Ouch! Sheryl, tell us how to use this facebook stuff at work or anywhere outside child's play...
When these people say "that is a thing of the past" are just marketing and nothing more.
Mail will be used intensively but maybe in a different manner, the same for desktop pcs and so on.
Things change, but not so much or in the fashion these marketers suggest in their make-believe world.

Email go away?? NEVER! Quite frankly I don't trust facebook that much, especially after the privacy fiasco.
Would you really want to trust them with emails or whatever etc.....

tunafish said,
Email go away?? NEVER! Quite frankly I don't trust facebook that much, especially after the privacy fiasco.
Would you really want to trust them with emails or whatever etc.....

Yes, great point.

I have ~10 000 letters in my index. From varies organizations, friends, university, mailing-list, etc. I don't think Facebook will be ever capable of replacing that. Sending photos, movies, HTML formatted letters, plain letters and etc. Facebook can't do that. Facebook isn't a standard and will never become one. Email (POP3, SMTP, IMAP) is infrastructure as a whole, not a service from one provider. I am on Facebook (passive user), but I still don't rely on it. If Facebook users continue to grow, they are gonna face some restrictions by the different governments.

Soldiers33 said,
social site instead of an email? no thanks, the amount of crap that gets sent from facebook to my email its unbearable

If you go in to account settings on facebook you can change it so facebook will never send you an email again so stop moaning.

I agree. It has already happened to me. With even family members on Facebook, not to mention friends, I private message a lot there instead of using e-mail. E-mail feels like this underfeatured mishapen child more and more, where there's the constant spam problem and the risk of false positive reports even on quality filters like Gmail's. None of that problem here. Heck even better - I only get mail from people I have approved.

So in short, mail is quickly becoming a communication system for web stores to report delivery statuses etc for me. A niched communication system that's only still alive because of a lack of better options, not because it's good.

Northgrove said,
I agree. It has already happened to me. With even family members on Facebook, not to mention friends, I private message a lot there instead of using e-mail. E-mail feels like this underfeatured mishapen child more and more, where there's the constant spam problem and the risk of false positive reports even on quality filters like Gmail's. None of that problem here. Heck even better - I only get mail from people I have approved.

So in short, mail is quickly becoming a communication system for web stores to report delivery statuses etc for me. A niched communication system that's only still alive because of a lack of better options, not because it's good.


I'm sorry to say, I receive/send no PMs via Facebook and receive/send many emails a day. It just depends if you are busy spamming your friends with quizzes and games on Facebook, or doing more serious things via email (or sometimes Twitter, for me).

I think I've used e-mail to contact friends maybe 10-15 times in my whole life. Not many people really check it to be honest. It is easier to either MSN them or Facebook Message them.

Jagjit Singh said,
I think I've used e-mail to contact friends maybe 10-15 times in my whole life. Not many people really check it to be honest. It is easier to either MSN them or Facebook Message them.

Most teens don't use email much, it seems, besides passing on the occasional chain email. But in the real world, serious matters are often discussed by email.

Besides, I wouldn't want to rely on Facebook...what if it goes down again right when I need to send/read something?

It is more convenient for me just to give someone my email address.

LaserWraith said,

Most teens don't use email much, it seems, besides passing on the occasional chain email. But in the real world, serious matters are often discussed by email.

Besides, I wouldn't want to rely on Facebook...what if it goes down again right when I need to send/read something?

It is more convenient for me just to give someone my email address.

I agree. When I was a teenager I didn't email very often at all.
Now that I have an important job and freelance I all but live in my email.

I think they are right, it will become less used, but won't go away. When you sign up for things (lets say a Blizzard account for example) you will still need a email address to confirm your details. I don't think social networking would incorporate that or other forms of regularly sent emails either.

Anarkii said,
I think they are right, it will become less used, but won't go away. When you sign up for things (lets say a Blizzard account for example) you will still need a email address to confirm your details. I don't think social networking would incorporate that or other forms of regularly sent emails either.

No, I think they are wrong. Businesses, who are probably the biggest users of e-mail, clearly won't use social networks to send stuff over. E-mail will never go and in fact, it'll never even get less used.

Anarkii said,
I think they are right, it will become less used, but won't go away. When you sign up for things (lets say a Blizzard account for example) you will still need a email address to confirm your details. I don't think social networking would incorporate that or other forms of regularly sent emails either.

Email is the most common form of communication, especially at work places. Do you think corporations will let users communicate through social networks rather than email. Many companies dont even allow social networking sites to be accessed.

In the UK I've been seeing a bit of come back for email, most teens just couldn't be bothered logging on to their computer to check their hotmail account, but now devices like the iPod Touch is widespread they can access email more easily.

Thankfully I never got involved with all this "Farmville" malarkey and have connected my twitter account (@NeowinSteve) to Facebook, so I only ever visit it to read messages and reply to wall to wall conversations.

I always ignore the joining of a new game or "Find out what your friends think about you". So it doesn't really affect me

Good article btw Oliver

the "latest figures" from where say only 11% - from the "facebook" dream team?

maybe they haven't noticed "teenagers" don't drive cars or drink alcohol much either - I suppose they are dead as well?

Don't read too much into how the COO of Facebook compares e-mail and Facebook messaging. Obviously she wants to keep her job. And the only way she can do that is by bringing more money into Facebook. She wants businesses and people to use Facebook for all communication so she can keep her job.

Like other basic necessities, E-mail will never die. It's a fundamental part of the internet. However, it could die if the basic structure of the internet is changed to something else altogether, which is highly unlikely at this time. Facebook would die before that happens.

From what I understand, Facebook is moving toward a new shopping experience. More businesses come in, more people will purchasing stuff, more revenue for Facebook through little % margins, if they have a shopping platform in place like Amazon has. (I don't know if this already is in place or not. They do sell $1 image gifts? LOL) She was obviously marketing Facebook to larger businesses because she wants to transform the existing online shopping experience into a Facebook shopping experience. This won't happen very quickly. Facebook marketing is just the beginning.

I hate people like her who try to invoke peoples's emotions to get what they want instead of giving people facts and the choice. The examples she used and the tone of her voice make you feel that Facebook is such a great platform, but the fact is, it's not. Recent news prove that point. She uses numbers like 11% without giving sources. Like dvb2000 said above, where did the 11% come from? And the Facebook sheep really believe that crap without giving it more thought.

I hope people really realize where all their information is going. Companies like Facebook collect your information. Credit card companies publish information on credit card applications within a few hours to public databases like intelius.com, usssearch.com, peoplesearchpro.com, etc. Companies like Rapleaf Spider all this information and create a "reputation score" or "report card" about people and sell that to other companies so they can do more targeted marketing on sheep. In all this, Google plays the biggest part right now.

From a technology standpoint, it's really fantastic what these smart people are doing, but from an individual standpoint, people are being categorized into groups of sheep so companies can sell their "swag" more easily. People are slowly losing their individuality because of companies like Facebook, Google, Rapleaf, and the like. I don't think people realize how important their individuality is. No wonder sheep are publishing their lives online.

This comes to mind when I think about stuff like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog .

Neobond said,
Thankfully I never got involved with all this "Farmville" malarkey and have connected my twitter account (@NeowinSteve) to Facebook, so I only ever visit it to read messages and reply to wall to wall conversations.

I always ignore the joining of a new game or "Find out what your friends think about you". So it doesn't really affect me

Good article btw Oliver

Exactly. I hate getting emails that say "So and So needs your help to get a cat out of a well".

dvb2000 said,
the "latest figures" from where say only 11% - from the "facebook" dream team?

maybe they haven't noticed "teenagers" don't drive cars or drink alcohol much either - I suppose they are dead as well?

The 11% is from the Pew Internet report (link is in the article...), but that's only to communicate with friends. It doesn't include communication outside the friends circle, so it's out of context. The same report actually says that "Fully 41% of all teens say that they never use email when communicating with their peers outside of school. While not used often for informal peer interactions, email is used in more formal situations such as in school and by parents and other adults".