Facebook is a gated community, but it’s also a hub for sharing. If you see something in Facebook, or on the net, you can easily send it along to all the people you know. We used to do this all the time with e-mail, and many of us still do get e-mail jokes, funny ads, pictures.
Facebook makes it easy, but needs your e-mail account. E-mail is the notification tool of Facebook. but what if Facebook simply gave out e-mail?
I long ago argues that e-mail was dead. I actually called the post the end of e-mail as a sharing tool. Then, I disagreed with myself. I stand by the second thing even more strongly now that Google has announced the launch of Open Social.
Google is the self-proclaimed organizer of information. If we want to know something, chances are Google knows it. Only, Google doesn’t know what’s happening behind the gates of Facebook.
So, they are furiously working to open the gates. Not on Facebook, but on social networking on the whole (which might force Facebook into irrelevance). The Google Contacts API is a confusingly named part of Open Social. The concept that might open social networks.
Why does that matter to e-mail? Because if everything is connected, we will need a tool to tell us what’s happening in those connections. Enter gmail, yahoo mail, or even hotmail. Facebook has teased with the social graph connections that were once hidden (ie, the group of people who share the same favorite book). For marketers, these connections could be really valuable as they are ways to segment a population.
But only in Facebook. Well, until now. Now Google plans to bring these connections into the open by helping to make them across platforms, for free. In other words, one could use MySpace to connect to someone in LinkedIn (since both are signing on to open social).
What that also means is that connection is public, and can be tracked. Not for nefarious purposes, but for general market segmentation purposes.
For now, we’re interested in what’s going on behind the gates of Facebook. But we’re also watching what might happen everywhere else. And obviously, everywhere else has much bigger potential. And that potential will be realized via e-mail.