When Facebook announced its new communications platform, bloggers and press were quick to classify the new product. Or try to. From "Gmail Killer" to a "messaging switchboard," no one came up with a perfect definition. There still isn't. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg said it best at Monday's San Francisco press event when he declared that, "it's not e-mail." Nope, it's definitely not.
Messages is also not for everyone. While a younger generation may want to see their texts, chats and messages all in one place, most working professionals use Facebook as a social hang-out and e-mail as a business tool. Moreover, there are still a number of companies that block or discourage Facebook at the office, making it a tough sell for individuals trying to rely on the online network as a primary communications platform.
Managing messages is not productive. There is no bigger complaint among the working population than e-mail overload. To relegate all your digital dialogue to one in-box is an organizational nightmare. For many people, myself included, the groups I deal with through e-mail, texting and Facebook are very different. While Messages plans to sort your social in-box so your friends and family rise to the top, I've yet to see an e-mail filter do a very good job of message prioritization.
Messages is not a Gmail killer. Sure, it might attract the teen in your home, but for Gmail users it isn't (yet) much competition. Over the years Google's e-mail client has grown into an extraordinary tool, complete with an excellent Calendar, Documents, and other handy business and personal products. While Google has added and improved these services, they've still managed to keep the Gmail and Google experience simple.
Messages is not simple. Although I have many reasons to love Facebook, for business and personal use, I'm constantly reminded when I log on that the overall user experience is far from perfect. The site is increasingly cluttered and the settings are overwhelming for the average user. With Messages, I worry that it's too much too soon. In other words, there are plenty of places on Facebook that could have used a facelift.
As for when Messages will launch in Canada, there's still no firm date. While I don't think it will fail (after all, 500 million people and counting are hooked on Facebook already), I do think the new platform will have a difficult time reeling in the working population. Especially before anyone can really properly explain exactly what it is.