Facebook Messaging: Not for Business

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Earth to Internet, Earth to Internet: Facebook Messages is not a business communications tool. Repeat: Facebook is not a business communications tool.

Who knows how the rumor got started that Facebook is taking on the combined messaging might of Google's (Stock Quote: GOOG) Gmail, Microsoft's (Stock Quote: MSFT) Hotmail and AOL (Stock Quote: AOL) Mail. However it happened, speculative Web posts began appearing earlier this month that Facebook's Messages product, which rolled out last week, would place the social media powerhouse square in the game of providing business class email and communications to its 500 million-ish users over the next several months.

Now clearly, business class email and messaging must be judged in the sober reality of time. And Facebook Messages is still in beta form, so it's evolving. Full analysis and judgment must wait until the product deploys on a large scale and the final form emerges. But as of now, the notion that Facebook is morphing into a business communications tool? Are you kidding me?

WHAT YOU GET

Facebook Messages is a moderately -- and I mean moderately -- improved version of Facebook's existing communication infrastructure.

What Messages is about, at least for now (keep in mind that Facebook changes frequently) is integrating all your communications into a single Facebook space. Chat, email, SMS and all the rest will go to a new messaging center. The idea is that there will be no need to remember all those pesky phone numbers, email address and the like. To do that, Facebook will offer users an @facebook.com email identity, as well as other means to weave together all one's inbound messaging.

Clearly there is merit to the idea. Users should expect to see a clean, attractive interface a la Facebook for all messages, as well as excellent service quality. And the cost will be zero.

That alone makes Facebook's Messages worthy of consideration -- if nothing else, to keep up with what the kids are doing.

WHAT YOU DON'T GET

Do not confuse this with a professional, focused workspace or a business URL.

For all of Facebook's allure as a messaging service, to say that what we are seeing now will work as a business tool is simply incomprehensible. First, you will have an @facebook.com account, not a company URL. Who can work that way? And though you can expect the service to be robust, you will be integrating your company's communications with your employee's Facebook chatter. In case you haven't noticed, the trend in office environments is to limit Facebook access. Not only is it seen as a cosmic time waster, but security is a major problem with all Facebook communications. The line between personal chatter and work communications, at least in early versions of Messages I am seeing, is just too fine.

BOTTOM LINE

Facebook Messages could be an interesting way to manage one's Web identity. But as a legitimate work tool? That is just so remote that any speculation of the sort is nothing short of ludicrous.

It's not just me who is sober about Messages: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been widely quoted saying Facebook Messages is not an email killer. And you know what? I think you should listen to the man.

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