Older things are usually lamer — especially in technology.
So to see so many Facebook users gripe when the company replaced the email addresses they posted on their profiles with the users’ new but rarely used Facebook addresses this weekend says a few things.
First, and hardly worth mentioning — Facebook users, like users of all platforms where people shape their own space, don’t like it when someone changes the curtains without their say so. Facebook knows this better than anyone, I have no doubt. But the angry “Hey, what’s this?” from the site’s most engaged users get them press on a feature they want to boost, and enough users will shrug or not even notice that it’ll be no big deal.
Second — Facebook’s “Modern Messaging System” hasn’t killed email — yet. Zuckerberg hoped it would be at least a threat after its launch in 2010, and gave some compelling reasons. Email was stale, bulky, contained. Facebook’s new messaging (which works with email and like email but is not, he insisted, email) would be light, quick, social and free, consolidating texts, messages and emails, working like chat when it needed to and traveling on whatever platform made the most sense.
Third — Facebook messages might not be cooler than email — now or ever. Zuckerberg argued in 2010 that the short, cut-to-the-chase Facebook style of messaging had already replaced email for young people and the rest of us were close behind. Studies showing declining email use among the young seemed to back him up. But email services can and have improved. And what young people do on Facebook doesn’t have the pull it used to now that older adults are there in droves.
Even among young people, Facebook’s messaging coolness depends on whom you ask — or what hip new show you watch.
Last night I saw an episode of an HBO series I’ve been hearing a lot of good buzz about — “Girls.” In it, the protagonists, in their early twenties, ran down a list of messaging methods as they trotted through Brooklyn. Facebook was the worst, they said. Email, which they’ve had forever, was at or very near the top.
Will Facebook messaging ever be cooler than email? I’ll use it when it makes sense, but nothing’s made me wish it could capture all my communication just yet. Until it’s clear people want that feature and like it, Facebook might be better off leaving people’s email preferences alone.