Facebook – LinkedIn – MySpace – Plaxo – Twitter. What do these have in common aside from the fact they are all wildly successful? Simple… Each of these are important players in the latest 21st century craze, forever to be known as “social networking.” I am a huge fan of FaceBook. I don’t know about you, but I love getting “FaceBooked” by random friends, family members, and/or business associates from my past. Once or twice per week I get one of those “Random Person has requested to add you as a friend on FaceBook” e-mails.
I’m in the business of making e-mail a safe and more productive tool. Part of my job is to consider questions like “Why is FaceBook so great and why do so many people use it?” After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that FaceBook has succeeded in providing more than simply a nice social networking environment. Thanks to FaceBook’s “opt-in by request only” nature, people are able to connect and communicate one-to-one (and in some cases one-to-many) with only those people they have authorized. I know many people who have stopped using traditional free e-mail services like Gmail and Yahoo, and instead use FaceBook to communicate with friends and colleagues. I ask these people why they have abandoned e-mail and in all cases the answer has been the same. “FaceBook is easy to use, is safe from threats, and is spam free.”
I do not know anyone that works for FaceBook. However, if I did, I would certainly compliment them on creating the secure communications channel that e-mail could have been.
This brings me to the explanation of the title of this posting…
In my opinion, e-mail is the original “social networking” tool. To quote George Lucas, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” in a pre-FaceBook, pre-LinkedIn world; there was e-mail. Before the “bad guys” and “marketing guys” messed up e-mail, it was a great tool for managing your social network of friends and business associates. Unfortunately for e-mail, there is no built-in concept of “opt-in by request only” functionality. In fact, with e-mail, there is virtually no built-in security whatsoever.
As the original “killer app,” for e-mail to maintain its undisputed role as the most important communications medium since the telephone, it seems clear to me that e-mail needs to be “upgraded” at least to a security level equal to that of other major social networking tools.