Facebook and free email?

On Monday, social networking site Facebook plans to announce some “surprising” new development. Various leaks and sources online, however, strongly suggest it’s going to be Facebook offering its own email service, just like Google’s Gmail.

While Facebook offering email will surely be useful for some of Facebook’s users, I don’t see it as a “Gmail killer” as some claim it to be. While Google, like Facebook, is another online 800-pound gorilla, Google’s so far done a much better job on security issues than Facebook, for whom a month doesn’t seem to go by without some type of security problem. Said security is one of several reasons why I don’t use Facebook, and yes, even with the cliche of “don’t put anything online you don’t want known” in mind. There’s also how entrenched Google is in most people’s online lives (to a bigger degree than even Facebook), as well as the annoyance of switching to a new email address. Finally, employers and businesses aren’t likely to take a Facebook email address seriously (or as seriously as a Yahoo or Gmail address).

In Facebook’s favor, however, Facebook email would be useful for the social network’s purposes, especially since it’ll be integrated into the site, much like how Gmail is integrated into the rest of Google’s services. Also, using Facebook’s photo posting service seems to have become popular (even with Flickr, Photobucket, etc. as competitors). Facebook.com email address, like any other free email address, might also be useful as a secondary address; something disposable to use for signing up with websites, etc. Using facebook.com for a secondary address would also keep a primary address (even if it’s a Gmail one) free.

While Gmail will surely be safe (just as the iPhone’s still around amidst a spate of “iPhone killers” introduced in the past few years), other free email services, particularly Hotmail (owned by Microsoft) and Yahoo, might want to be on alert. Given how Google alone’s already overshadowed Hotmail and Yahoo in recent years, the last thing those two services need is the also-quite-popular Facebook siphoning away even more email users. I haven’t used Hotmail for email since the early 2000s, while I’ve had a Yahoo address of some sort since the mid-90s. These days, however, I only have the Yahoo address as part of signing up for Yahoo’s instant messaging service. Gmail is one of my main email addresses nowadays, along with my ISP’s address (which I’m moving away from) and my webhost email address.

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