Facebook Escalates War with Google, May Launch New E-mail Service

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The Facebook Inc. logo is displayed as Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, speaks during the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) MIXX 2010 conference and expo during Advertising Week in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. The mobile advertising market may more than double in the U.S. to almost $500 million this year, researchers say.

Google and Facebook, today’s web-world leaders, are at war. And if the much-speculated Facebook e-mail service turns out to be true, then it will stop being the cold kind.

This November, the two tech giants have been locking horns nonstop. To recap: First, Google blocked Facebook’s access to the contact lists of its Gmail users, making it tough for new users of the social-networking site to befriend the folks they email. Next, Facebook began testing a new ‘mentions’ feature on the News Feeds of select users – an upgrade that seems to take a page out of Google’s trusty Trends feature. Then, an embarrassing bidding war for talent played out in the press last week. A Google engineer who reportedly threatened to move to Facebook ended up being rewarded with $3.5 million in restricted stock for disloyalty.

But all of these are inconsequential compared to the blow Facebook will be dealing Google if it does end up introducing an e-mail function. For the first time, Google and Facebook will be competing in the same space. Previously, Google suggested that, even though it built its business on text ads, its growth rested in display ads, a portion of the online ad business that Facebook dominates. Now, Gmail and, well, Fmail will both be going after the exact same ad revenues that email users bring.

So who will win this battle for e-mail supremacy? It depends on who you ask and in what regard.

  • Techland’s Doug Aamoth on doing away with e-mail altogether (Facebook) “Facebook may throw everyone a curveball by attempting to either totally re-invent the concept of e-mail or totally do away with the concept of e-mail altogether. I honestly can’t conceptualize how they’d do away with e-mail and it’d be a real hard sell for those of us over the age of 25, but most younger generations rely on e-mail far less nowadays than the rest of us.”
  • Technorati’s Timothy Lavallee on other e-mail features (Google) “The bulk of Gmail users, in my experience, are there not just for e-mail. They are there for the integration of Google’s other products like calendar, text and video chat, phone calls, SMS, documents, etc. Facebook has some of these features, but they’re not used the same way.”
  • Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz on the e-mail user experience (Facebook): “Since Facebook knows how you interact with all your contacts, they would be able to perfectly separate what is important from what is not. Having used Gmail’s Priority Inbox for a while, I have the feeling that Facebook could do much better at (sic) given all their data and some clever, but not overly complicated logic.”
  • Wired’s Ryan Singel on email targeted advertising (Facebook): “Unlike the targeted third-party ad systems run by Microsoft, Google and others, there’s no need to track you around the net to try to infer from your reading and video viewing habits how old you are, where you went to college or what you are into. Facebook knows all of that already because you told them.”

Still, even though the winner’s identity is still up in the air, one thing seems certain: The losers may be us webmail users. Those targeted ads can get overly personal and creepy, after all.

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