Facebook announcement last week on the updates to their Messaging platform I have been doing a lot of thinking about how we choose to create, share and digest content online. The information overload has passed the point for anyone to reliably normalize it and yet we continue to drink from the firehose as we add communication streams which require organization and prioritization.
The Facebook move recognizes this need and is building a way to centralize the communication around people whether the format is SMS, chat, email (now everyone can have an @facebook.com address), etc. Of course, by centralization they mean on the FB network and users will get their choice of which methods they want to interact with.
Google has also taken a swing at the concept of aggregated communication focused mostly around their popular email platform, Gmail. With features like Buzz, Chat and priority inbox now built in the Gmail interface is really more of a communication portal page.
Despite the different options out there on how to unify the different messaging formats I agree with Alexia Tsotsis in her recent TechCrunch article. As he puts it:
"Right now I wouldn’t Facebook message a potential client just like I wouldn’t @reply a relative with the details of what my family is doing for Thanksgiving."
I feel like the key to this statement is that right now it doesn't seem right that anyone would use a single method to communicate. But right now in the current environment doesn't last long.
If you think about the different types of folks we interact with each day you start to realize that there are different categories you could fit people into. Those people can be sorted by a) the different roles they play (family, friend, business associate) and b) the point when they choose to adopt internet technologies as a part of how they interact. For instance, teenagers today have not yet had to communicate in a work environment and exist in a generation where sharing every detail of ones day is common. Therefore email alternatives that are less formal like SMS, social networks and chat are all preferred. Compare that with those of us in our 30's and 40's who grew up without these choices and by the time we reached our 20's email was the only option.
Of course, what Facebook and others are betting on is someday the gaps will disappear and it will become the norm to keep in touch with everyone in your world through their platform.