Facebook unveiled on Monday a messaging service designed to incorporate email, SMS, chat and messages under one system, a move that could potentially erode the markets of a host of other high-profile email providers from Google's (GOOG) Gmail to Yahoo's (YHOO) Yahoo mail.
But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg downplayed the potential affect on email providers, saying in a Webcast: "This is not an email killer. This is a messaging system that includes email."
The Messages service, which will be rolled out over the next few months, is designed to allow a user to communicate in real-time with another person via chat, SMS, messages or email that is all channeled into one conversation stream. A Facebook user, for example, could send a text message to someone in their contact list, have that person respond via email, yet the conversation string appears in the Messages service as though the parties were using the same form of communication.
Although Facebook Messages users will receive a facebook.com email address, the service is not viewed as an email system, says Zuckerberg. For example, users won't be able to send blind copies of email, nor does the service offer video chat capabilities that are gaining tremendous popularity among email users.
A user's Facebook friends will have their messages, email, text, chats show up in the user's in-box. But if someone from outside that circle of Facebook family or friends contacts the user through their Facebook Messages service, their communication will be routed into an "Other" folder, somewhat similar to a spam folder. If the user then moves that conversation into their in-box, future messages, texts and email will be forwarded on without being rerouted to "Other."
"It's a simpler form of real-time communication," Zuckerberg said. "It's more accessible ... that's our goal."
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