Messaging becomes mail
Rumours have circulated for months that Facebook has been working on 'Project Titan', an email service for its 500 million users expected to compete with long-standing providers such as Gmail and Hotmail. The social network is expected to officially announce this new service at a special event in San Francisco today, with TechCrunch commenting: "The event invites Facebook sent out hinted strongly that the news would have something to do with its Inbox".
As well as the invites, on Friday Mashable revealed that Facebook has acquired the Fb.com domain from the American Farm Bureau. The blog goes on to speculate that this new address will be used for Facebook's 1,400 staff, freeing up their current @facebook.com addresses for users and organisation pages.
Competing for the mail monopoly
Overhauling the Facebook Inbox to receive outside mail has been called 'the end of spam' by several analysts. Mail from Facebook-verified identities or pages will be more trustworthy, whereas filtering for friends, family, or friends of friends could also be useful. This spam filtering potential, coupled with the network's ready-made customer base, has led to Project Titan apparently being dubbed the 'Gmail killer' by employees.
The potential benefits for Facebook are numerous too; this service would cut out the middle man, with users receiving Facebook communication directly rather than through their current Hotmail or Gmail account. The UI will be tailored to be compatible with Facebook's incredibly popular photos, events, games and applications too, as well as the recently-announced Deals feature.
However, it remains to be seen how the Facebook email service will affect B2C marketers. The spam filter could lead to some corporate emails being blocked, and companies without a social media presence will certainly suffer. Meanwhile, email blog Jaymail pointed out: "It is not inconceivable that [Facebook] could offer targeted email marketing opportunities in the same vein as their ads platform".