July 15th, 2007
Each killer communications app has a unique core value proposition that nothing else can beat:
- Telephone — synchronous one-to-one voice
- Email — asynchronous one-to-one text
- Instant messagingg — synchronous one-to-one text
- Blogging — asynchronous one-to-many text
No other platform is even close to displacing any of these — especially email. For years, the talk has been that IM would replace email, and now some are wondering whether Facebook site mail will replace email (last year it was MySpace site mail). But email has a feature that none of these other platforms can claim — EVERYONE has an email address.
That’s why nothing is close to supplanting the telephone — everyone has a phone number. Twitter is supposed to be an alternative to blogging, but all it really did was lower the threshold to posting. Blogging software is still a far superior platform.
The reality is that new killer communication applications haven’t replaced old ones but rather have enabled an entirely new mode. Email is still the best for one-to-one asynchronous, i.e. the other person doesn’t have to be there to respond instantly. But IM is ideal for synchronous communication, i.e. when you need an instant response.
The same is true of Facebook. It’s not going to replace email, IM, blogs, or anything else, because what it enables is entirely distinct. Facebook is an ideal platform for limited asynchronous one-to-many communication — when you want to communicate with a group but not with the whole world. For asynchronous one-to-many communication with the whole world, nothing beats a blog.
But Facebook is perfect for when you want to share updates, news, information, photos, videos, etc. with a defined group of people, i.e. your friends, with none of the inefficiencies of email (e.g. endless group discussion threads, attached documents with multiple versions) and all of the efficiencies of blogs:
- One central location
- Easily updated
Shared discussion space (i.e. comments)
Facebook hasn’t yet perfect limited asynchronous one-to-many communication. For example, you can’t opt to communicate only with a sub-group of your friends, as you might for a particular business interaction. Facebook is still optimized for students who want to communicate with all of their friends all of their time, rather than business purposes where you might not want to communicate with everyone all of the time. (Everyone in the tech/media space who has suddenly discovered Facebook is running around singing its praises as if it were designed for them, but they’re all just trying to look hip.)
As with IM, Facebook or other social networks with similar features will work for this type of limited group communication only if everyone you want to communicate with is inside the walled garden. But once they’re all in, it will allow you to transfer certain communications that were happening inefficiently in another platform to one where the communication has a lot less friction.