Email is dead. Long live the Fmail.


PC Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNET and many others have been busy lately claiming that email is mostly dead.

And yet, Facebook are busy building a new email service from the ground up, internally called Project Titan, and even more internally dubbed Gmail Killer (uggh!). Facebook users will be able to use it through Facebook itself or independently via POP and IMAP.

Mark Zuckerberg might be growing old and is losing it. But then again, he’s only 27, so that’s not a very probable explanation. So, does he have anything up his sleeve again?

Pretty much most of today’s email clients block just about anything in an email message that isn’t text. It wasn’t so long ago that you could send JavaScript, Flash and even *gasp* ActiveX objects embedded in an email message. Today, even downloading images require an explicit consent by the user, and embedding anything other than text and images is next to impossible or at least impractical.

That is of course because sending non-static content in an email message is a huge security issue and could result in viruses spyware and other malware invading your machine, not to mention a general meltdown of your hard drive and an escalation of the global warming process.

We’ve learned to live with this restriction. Just like there will never be peace in the middle east, there is no way to deliver dynamic interactive content over email, and that’s about it.

Or is there?

It was 3 years ago that Facebook executed the 3rd milestone in its world domination program and announced the Facebook Platform, allowing every developer out there to enhance and extend the original Facebook experience by embedding dynamic, interactive content directly into the Facebook pages. Guess what, this injection of 3rd party, dynamic content, with support for full HTML, Flash & JavaScript (no ActiveX though thankfully) did not result in anything melting down, warming up or giving life to a new strain of viruses (Farmville excluded of course).

Now, what if…?

What if Facebook did the same for email?

What if Facebook were able to magically lift this restriction, allowing app developers to embed dynamic content (e.g. applications!) into email messages?

It doesn’t really require magic. All it requires is a major email service (check) with an ecosystem of 3rd party app developers (check) and the guts to question old, no-longer-relevant axioms (check).

Oh, you’d still be able to send and receive plain old boring email. If you were to receive an email through these IMAP and POP interface that contained a Facebook app you’d get an empty rectangle and an invitation to click through and get the full experience on Facebook, just like you’re getting today with rich content in badly designed emails.

If you want to enjoy The New Email though, you should consume and create your email on Facebook itself, or through a Facebook-enabled email client.

The implications for app developers, publishers and marketers would be huge. Oh, you could still send an email blast telling your users about the sale you’re having, but only through Facebook email you could let them complete the purchase right there, in the email message, increasing your conversion by an order of magnitude. You could still send a link to a cool game to your friend over plain old email, but with The New Email, your friend doesn’t need to click through – they can play the game right there, from the email message (did I mention conversion?). There is so much more you can do when the email evolves from a transport for text, sometimes links and hopefully images into a container for interactive applications.

Is this what Mark is planning? I have no idea. Clearly, of all the players out there, Facebook is best positioned to pull this off, and change the rules of the game – again.

So, assuming this hypothetical gold rush to the new hypothetical apps-over-email frontier, which email app would you do develop first?