I've always been scared around gadgets and software. And in awe of people who're good with them. After three years of science and tech reporting though, I think I'm starting to get the hang of things. Before this, I covered automobiles, health, careers and business, for seven years. Nice thing about technology is, it lets me poach into all those fields once in a while. I love this job. But I'm not sure how I managed to land it. I did my BA in Advertising from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and MA in Journalism from Madurai Kamaraj University. I wanted to be a cartoonist, a guitar player and a footballer but sucked in all those fields. I can play the flute and harmonica though. And I have an interest in machines that move - it was cars and bikes earlier but considering there's nothing revolutionary happening there, it's military stuff now. I'm the sort who drools over figures. Not the 36-24-36 types. But top speed, acceleration, fuel consumption, drag co-efficient. I drive an Alto though. And usually take the Metro to work.
Disclaimer: I haven't used Facebook Messages yet. This is merely Gyaan I've gleaned from Google baba and coughed up for a quick read.
I've got friends on Facebook. I've got a whole world of other people on Gmail. Some of them might use Facebook, but they aren't my friends. Some others are simply not on the site.
To stay in touch with everyone, I need both social networking and email. Mark Zuckerberg doesn't agree. From today, users can send email from within his site.
It's called Facebook Messages. It's just rolled out in the US and will soon come to India. It's free but you'll have to sign up for it. http://www.facebook.com/about/messages/
Your new email id will be: Yourusername@facebook.com.
With that, you'll be able to email anybody, even people who've never used the site. They'll be able to reply, even RSVP on physical meetings you've planned through Facebook. People desperate to contact you will just search Facebook to get your co-ordinates.
But unlike traditional email, the Facebook inbox gives priority to emails from your friends. All the other lottery spam, marketing offers, RTI queries, weirdo rants etc that you're usually bombarded with ends up in a different "Other" folder.
You get messages from the folks you care about the most, first. Without pain. People from the "Other" folder can be shifted to your main inbox individually, if you like what they've sent you and want to hear from them again.
Another interesting take. Every SMS, chat, wall post or email you exchange with any of your friends on Facebook, shows in your inbox, as one single conversation.
From the very first date request you sent your wife ten years back, to the angry break up update, to the mushy apology email to the doctor's appointment reminder, everything can be easily recalled, anytime you want it.
If those two features don't interest you, Mark Zuckerberg doesn't really care. Email is for dinosaurs anyway - most young people today SMS, chat, exchange messages or status updates. Their first brush with email is only when they get a job and go to office. They're the future of the web.
There are about 500 million Facebook users today. 350 million of them send 15 billion messages every month. 300 million Facebook chat users send 120 billion chat messages per month.
Compare those figures to 363 million Hotmail users for, 303 million for Yahoo, 171 million for Gmail. Many of the folks use Facebook and with the new email offer, many might permanently shift loyalties.
Should you? I won't. For one, Facebook is among the most blocked sites in offices worldwide. I wouldn't want to be cut off from all my communications suddenly.
Second, Gmail gives me 7 GB of storage space and lightning fast searches. It lets me import and sync all my other email accounts. Facebook hasn't promised either yet.
Third, all other email services allow me to back up my data and copy it if need be to external hard drives, so I have a physical record, if my account is hacked. Facebook locks people in. It's not allowed people to take their photos and other content with them when they leave the site. Why should email be any different?
Fourth, there's privacy. Even Gmail displays ads based on the emails in my inbox. For example, if the wife mails "Pick up groceries on the way home" - Gmail might show me grocery store ads from my vicinity. But Facebook always twists privacy rules in controversial ways.
Fifth, all emails/chats/messages/updates from a single person in your Facebook inbox will show up as a SINGLE conversation. Emails sent in different years, emails with separate subjects, all will be in ONE stream. To make any sense of that sort of data quickly, could be tough.
What many of us might end up doing, is a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Ask friends to email on Facebook. And use regular email for office work and other serious stuff.
But if you've "friended" thousands of random people on Facebook, it'll be tough separating messages from the really important folks in your life, from the other random pokes, jokes, games that Facebook is famous for.
PS: Google revealed similar tools earlier with Google Wave, Google Buzz and Google Priority Inbox. Wave is now retired, most people found it a bit too geeky. Buzz was a big flop by most accounts. But watch out for Google Me - the supposed Facebook killer lurking somewhere in the background.