There are already too many posts on this, and it’s completely unrelated to Silne’s focus, but I can’t help but think about the economics of facebook’s new messaging (“don’t call it email!”) offering.
First let me say that it seems cool for some use cases. I.e. maintaining a log of all communication with 1 person, across chat, email and more. This is great for personal usage. Usually I do want to pick up where I left off. Skype offers a massively cut down version of this that I use all the time.
However this has strategic implications for them. Before thinking through those you have to have a view on the source of their competitive advantage and defensible position, is it (a) proprietary culture (product development capabilities) allowing them to release better products and features than anyone else, or (b) the network effects associated with owning your social graph (the usefulness is a function of the other users, as such new networks can’t launch)? I believe it was a, now the high valuations are based on b.
With this new feature you’ll be able to communicate more freely with friends outside facebook. Further, with IMAP and jabber integration you’ll be able to communicate outside facebook.com (i.e. without seeing the ads). You can do that already with wall posts (e.g. tweetdeck). If you think of facebook as the location to communicate with friends (rather than post static information) then they’ve released their grip on that.
Now lets fast forwards, and imagine 20 other cool products (including google) allowing a website and other apps to socialize. They can now interface with most of facebook. Users with facebook accounts (to store their social graph only) can use whatever tool they want (no value to FB). Users without facebook accounts can still interact with facebook users (although can’t see all of the relevant content).
Users will be more likely (than prior to releasing this product) to choose the interface/product that suits them (rather than the one their friends are on). Not great for them.
But then again, they want to ‘connect the world’, not make money, right?