Did you get the message? Facebook to shutter its email service

Few likely to be disappointed since not many used @Facebook.com

Facebook will shutter its email service next month, and it's likely that not many people will even notice.

In what may be one of Facebook's first failures, the social media company said in an email to Computerworld Tuesday that it has begun notifying email users that the service is ending.

The service will be shut down and users' emails will be redirected to their alternate email address by early to mid-March.

Facebook had a simple problem with its email service: Not enough people were using it. The company did not respond to a question on how many people use the email service.

"This reminds me of that old saw about a tree falling in the forest," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "If a tech service that no one knows about goes away, does it make a noise? In this case, not much of one, no."

In the fall of 2010, Facebook unveiled what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called a "modern messaging system" -- one that encompassed e-mail, instant messages, Facebook messages and SMS. Facebook was looking to move all of these different styles of communication under one social umbrella.

The move gave users a chance to have a facebook.com e-mail address.

Zuckerberg noted at the time that more than 4 billion messages were sent every day on Facebook, with the vast majority of them between two people. He said he started thinking about those numbers after talking with a group of high school students who told him that they rarely used e-mail.

And then come to found out, those students were part of a trend. People didn't use the email service that Facebook developed to bring them in.

"By the time Facebook became popular, pretty much everyone had email, plus plenty of free email services available," Olds said. "In fact, I wonder if there are more people still using @AOL.com than currently use @facebook.com."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said shutting down the email service is a big failure for Facebook, but it won't hurt the company because there won't be many disappointed users.

"If you're not failing, it means you're not trying hard enough," he said, explaining that big, successful companies have to take chances.

Olds agreed that closing down email won't hurt Facebook.

"You can't hit home runs, or even singles, every time at bat," said Olds. "Facebook has definitely struck out when it comes to email services, but that's OK. It doesn't really impact any of their other lines of business."

This article, Did you get the message? Facebook to shutter its email service, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

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