Monday, October 22, 2007

Social Email Graph (SEG) = Facebook

This is part 2 in my series on Social Email Graph (SEG) - the solution to capturing our real world social graph to online world which is embedded in our email activities.

What Facebook has done well is let users take their social behavior from the real world and translate it to the online world on Facebook. Ok, they have done this well for younger crowd and have smartly opened their platform for the older crowd to bring their behavior to Facebook thru Apps.

I pay for my y! mail and use gmail with gtalk daily for totally different set of communications. But, increasingly I find myself using Facebook Inbox Messaging for my email with my Facebook friends.

Luke of Facebook sowed the seeds in my mind with his blog about switching email to Facebook Inbox. He said "there's no need to switch between Facebook and email for your daily communication needs” and “I am never going to use gmail again!" That’s a lofty goal, but given how I am drawn to switch my entire web world to start from Facebook without Facebook folks even marketing to users to do it, this is the first time (I saw) that Facebook asked me to switch from a web app - my email.

Heres what Facebook Inbox team can do to extend to SEG:

  • First the usability of inbox has to improve. Facebook provides basic threading of messages, but that’s nothing as cool as gmail but it’s an important start. Ability to organize messages with clean UI, being able to search and get to past messages is a must.

  • Allow tagging and categorizing Inbox messages based on friends messaged.

  • I spoke to Chamath Palihapitiya of Facebook after his panel at Social Graphing Pattern and he said Facebook did not build Inbox using email (using SMTP) because they want to protect the privacy of users. One example he gave was that with an email you could forward an email from a friend to another friend without the consent of the first friend, hence they don't support forwarding in Inbox. Valid point!

  • Facebook has implemented emailing from Facebook Inbox or Event RSVP brilliantly to create viral play while preventing spam of Facebook users. (see pictures of the non-facebook user's experience here)

In my mobile middleware startup Coola in 2000, we had amazing success with a “Send to friend” Coolet (a Coolet was a widget code on a web page that a user clicked to send pieces of web content into a friend’s Palm App via the web) where we used email for invites but restricted the usage unless the recipient signed to our service Coola leading to 1Mil user registrations quickly.

I can see how Facebook has brought viral play but avoided building two messaging threads on Facebook and our email client trying to bring everyone to Facebook platform. I believe in Facebook platform, but do not believe the whole world will switch out of a standard like email to Facebook. So, Facebook should provide better support to other email systems with the convenience of the user in mind.

  • Facebook Inbox can become a social email only when Facebook users can start using it in lieu of email AND do intuitively all that I use email to do using my social graph of the real world. So, following email protocol to match up with email is not enough.

Facebook should open up FB API to access inbox with capabilities to allow using inbox as email but allowing the user to make associations of groups, events and repeated usage of trusted friends.

For example if I reply to a message received, allow the option to add them as friend, filter as spam etc.

  • User joining groups and RSVP to events is similar to email play on facebook but each group or fellow members have an association with each other. In fact its common these days to meet people at events and send them a friend request to join facebook, similar to event specific alumni groups on linkedin which is a type of friend/social relationship.
  • When a user signs up for an event, allow association with members of that group (similar to networks today), which is part of the social email graph.
  • On receiving or replying to a message allow assignment to trusted circles as specific school, work, kids school, church etc.
  • Build in metrics to track repeated messaging between friends, replying or ignoring messaging from certain friends and allow user to choose their behavior to define the circle of this friend. This can be taken one step further to allow specific actions appropriate for that segment of friends. This last item is best done by App developers catering to a wide range of social circumstances instead of being built by Facebook.

  • Then Facebook truly becomes a platform, bringing all our social interaction hidden in today's communication to let our real social graph of the world flow through Facebook and reach the whole world.

    Tomorrow, lets look at how email players can evolve and extend to SEG play.


Anonymous said...

SEG is a fascinating concept! Wish Yahoo or Facebook listens to you and runs with the idea before someone else does. Looking forward to the next installment...

Edward J. Yoon said...

Looks really fun. I've been started this analysis.

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