Facebook, Google and the battle for the inbox

This morning’s Observer column.

The trouble with email, as the parent of every teenager knows, is that it’s so, well … yesterday. I mean to say, you have to think of a “subject” and whether you’re going to start the message with “Dear” or “Hi!” or “Yo!”. And then there’s the problem of what you put at the end: “See you!” or “xxx” or “Gotta go…” And don’t even mention the issue of the ‘signature’ at the end of the message – you know, “Sent from my iPhone” and all that. And on top of that, there’s the fact that email isn’t synchronous. You could send a message and the other person might not see it for, well, at least five minutes.


This is the context in which Facebook’s latest ‘messages’ initiative needs to be seen…

Richard Harper — whose new book I am enjoying — also has a nice piece about communications overload in the paper this morning. His conclusion:

Zuckerberg’s announcement has hit a nerve – but not because of the number of messages we now receive. It’s because his announcement is asking us to think about who we want to be and how we convey that through our communications. These are human questions, not technical ones, and all the more important because of it.