The battle for your attention is heating up. Facebook and Google are always in the news, but some interesting news recently shows how competitive these companies are going to get. Several months ago I wrote about this collision course the two companies are on:
Facebook is trying to get closer to a real email client and generally be the only site you visit on any given day. Google already has your email, but wants to provide all of the functionality you could possibly need and make it all social for you. Both companies know that communication is the key to winning. If they provide the easiest and best communications tools, they will likely become the destination of choice.
Late last week, TechCrunch talked about Facebook’s potential email client. Given that the blog post is not an official release from Facebook, we have to assume certain things. Facebook has been updating their internal messaging features throughout their stream of site updates. It makes a lot of sense for Facebook to try to create a true email application.
Yesterday brought us the Google release of Google Buzz. Buzz gives you the ability to provide short updates along with pictures or video, all from your GMail account. Basically, Google is trying to use your email network as the basis for a social network:
You can choose to share publicly with the world or privately to a small group of friends each time you post. And you can connect other sites you use, today there’s Picasa, Flickr, Google Reader, and Twitter, so your friends can keep up with what you’re doing around the web — all in one place.
Obviously, this sounds a lot like what Facebook and other social networks provide. I will not attempt to review the functionality of Buzz until I have used it for a few days, but the general concepts look very similar to the Facebook stream of updates.
The real question is whether it is really too late to merge email and social networks. Because of the traditional separation between the two applications, many people have used them differently. Many people use Facebook as a way to keep up with friends or even business associates. Email has been a more direct method of getting things done, and typically has included much fewer people than your social network friend list.
Is this convergence a good thing? CenterNetworks talked about this problem a few days ago regarding Facebook and its parallels to AOL. Google is slowly headed in the same direction with GMail being the central application. We already have chat, contacts and calendar hooks in our email client, and Google Voice integration is likely not far behind. Google just added the social networking component as well. Are we headed to the Web 2.0 version of AOL?