I have no sense of the numbers - but the volume of 'emails' sent through Facebook's Messages platform must be a scale comparable to the bigger email hosts (ie GMail). Sure the product, the usage and the content is different - but the point remains: Facebook Messages is really, really big. As a Chat / SMS substitute (location, pictures, one-liners, etc), Facebook Messages is terrific and particularly great as a stand alone iPhone app.
But for email usage, Facebook Messages is really unusable. Why?
- Emails get lost far too quickly
- The interface is clearly aimed at SMS & feed-like interactions
- It lacks normal email activities: folders, search, stars, etc.
- It relies on notifications to drive engagement... but notifications are too transient and work great for feeds, not for email.
- It integrates nicely with Contacts and Events (two core components of email environments) - but those are again suited for social setting and not email settings.
So if Facebook created the Messages product to serve SMS & feed activities... and they built a great solution / experience for that - what am I complaining about?
Users are clearly looking for a truer email experience inside Facebook. I know this because I get dozens of emails to my Facebook account each week. In fact, I get more Messages akin to emails than I do to Chats. And I conclude the way I do on most LinkedIn messages: "Thanks! Please email me at rspoon@...com." I have to - I know it will get lost in the pile of Messages on Facebook.
That's a poor expierence and a poor outcome. Particularly considering I already have email@example.com and would gladly create & manage an inbox (or on my iPhone, etc).
It's time to build a true email environment. Perhaps it sits beside Chat & Messages, but Facebook needs Email. Users are making due already.