Can Facebook become the new default?

I find Facebook incredibly useful, if not particularly exciting. My usage reflects that – I like to add people on Facebook in order to maintain connections, and I like to keep my profile looking fresh, but I rarely surf Facebook like I used to. Yet there’s no escaping Facebook. The numbers tell the story. Check out these statistics compiled for a recent Fortune article:

  • 175 million members
  • 3 billion total daily minutes of use
  • 850 million photos uploaded each month
  • 15 million who update their status daily
  • 24 million pieces of content shared each month

Very impressive. Also in the sidebar, Fortune looks at the race to 150 million users. That feat took Facebook 5 years, versus 7 years for the iPod, 14 years for the cell phone, 38 years for the television, and 89 years for the telephone. Obviously it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but you get the idea (and notice how other technologies such as Google or Windows are left out).

With numbers like that, it’s not hard to listen to Mark Zuckerberg and actually think he’s got a shot at achieving his new goal:

"We think that if you can build one worldwide platform where you can just type in anyone’s name, find the person you’re looking for, and communicate with them," he told a German audience in January, "that’s a really valuable system to be building."

In the article, author Jessi Hempel positions Facebook as the new phone system, but I think the new email system is perhaps a more reasonable comparison. I think the “default” right now when you make a connection is to get an email address. You collect business cards at events and they all have phone numbers and email addresses but how many people actually pick up the phone? Email is the default.

What if Facebook could become the new default? Clearly, that’d be a big deal.

Already I think Facebook is the default platform for events, and most people seem to think it’s the default for photos. Can it become the default for communication in general? As I’ve said before, I think Facebook Connect is a step in that direction.

Please don't send me large files via email

email If you’ve ever sent me a large file through email, you probably know how much I hate it. No one escapes a lecture! Just because GMail and other services give you gigabytes of storage, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to send really large attachments. I was happy to read that one my favorite blogs posted about the subject today. From the Microsoft Office Outlook Team Blog:

Putting any issues with your e-mail service provider’s limits on large messages aside, sending large attachments through e-mail is still a bad idea for a number of reasons.

In the post, Outlook Program Manager Ryan Gregg outlines a few of the reasons why you shouldn’t send large files via email – mail servers may reject large files, mailboxes may go over their quota, attachment bloat, attachments may be out of date, etc. He also outlines a number of alternatives, including SharePoint or a Shared File Server, Office Live, photo sharing sites like Flickr, and video sharing sites like YouTube.

When you use one of these alternative ways to share files with your friends, family, or colleagues you help them keep your mailbox and theirs clean, and you can be sure that your file will be available no matter what service or program your e-mail recipients are using.

I would add a couple more reasons to avoid sending large files: slow Internet connections and small devices. If I’m checking email on an unreliable connection, the last thing I want to do is wait for your images to download. If I’m checking email on my iPod touch or a cell phone, I might not be able to read the files anyway.

If you’re sending photos, why not stick them on Flickr and email a link? Same goes for video – use a site like YouTube. Some other alternatives include Box.net, Amazon S3, and SlideShare.

It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort to stick your file online somewhere first, so why not just do it? Send links to large files via email, not the files themselves!

Why Messaging via Facebook Rocks

facebook Facebook has a ton of interesting features, but one of the most boring is increasingly becoming my favorite – messages. The wall is what most people think of when communicating via Facebook, but private messages are the way to go when you’d rather not have everyone reading what you have to say.

Here’s why I like messaging via Facebook:

  1. There’s no need to remember someone’s email address. There are lots of reasons that people get new email addresses, such as when they graduate, switch jobs, or switch ISPs. Unless you converse with someone regularly, keeping track of their email address can be a bit of a pain. On Facebook, all you need to know is a name.
  2. There’s no need to manage an address book. One solution to the above problem of remembering email addresses would be to create and maintain an address book. That can be quite a bit of work though. On Facebook, everyone is responsible for keeping their own information up-to-date, so you don’t have to worry about it.
  3. Receiving a message via Facebook is contextually appropriate. When you receive an email, it shows up in your inbox alongside messages for work, bacn, and spam. With Facebook however, you’re there specifically for communication, so you’re in the right frame of mind to be receiving messages from others. And so far, there’s no spam.
  4. It works on your mobile phone. You can setup Facebook to send your messages to you via SMS. You can also send messages to others by prefixing your text message with “msg firstname lastname”. Sure you can do something similar with some email providers, but it’s never simple to setup, and you often need a smartphone of some kind.
  5. Profile information is just a click away. When you receive an email from someone, you see their name, address, and message. If you’re lucky, they’ll have a signature with other information, but don’t count on it! On Facebook, simply click on the person’s name and you can see all their relevant contact info, their status, friends, and more.

It’s often the simplest features that are the most useful!

Get your @live.com address now!

Microsoft opened up registration for their @live.xx domains today! You can head over to the Live.com site to register for your local address (in Canada that would be @live.ca). Of course, if you’re like me, you want an @live.com address too. You can sign up for that one here (click the “Get it free” button).

I can’t imagine how much Microsoft spent on the “live” domains, but they’ve got a ton of them. You can sign up for many more by following the links here, if you’re so inclined. The new “Linked IDs” feature will definitely come in handy now!

I just registered mastermaq@live.com and mastermaq@live.ca and linked them. Wicked!

Also, if you’ve got a Hotmail account that you want to transition to Live.com, check out this page. You’ll have to do a bunch of migration steps, and not everything can be transferred. Personally I like the @hotmail.com address, so I’m keeping mine.

There you go, enjoy!

Read: LiveSide

No @live.com email address for Canadians

Post ImageBack in April I posted about Windows Live Hotmail and the news that users would be able to sign up for an @live.com email address. I was quite excited – after all, it’s a pretty cool domain name. Today though, some disappointing news:

Apparently country code addresses will only be available in countries outside the US (I’m assuming a bit here, as Jacky talks only about .ca, Canadian addresses), so that a Canadian will be able to get an @live.ca address, but not an @live.com one.

The news comes from Jacky Mok, a product manager for Windows Live in Toronto.

I am a proud Canadian, but @live.ca just isn’t the same as @live.com, dammit! Maybe I can proxy my way around the registration restrictions. Or maybe Microsoft can smarten up and remove any such restrictions!

Read: LiveSide

Windows Live Hotmail with Outlook

Post ImageYesterday Microsoft launched the new version of Hotmail, called Windows Live Hotmail. I rarely use Hotmail anymore, but I signed up for the Windows Live beta quite a while ago to check it out. I will say it’s better than what they had, but it’s still not for me. I really wasn’t that excited about it at all, until I came across something interesting. From the press release:

Windows Live Hotmail will deliver a safer, more powerful and productive e-mail experience than previous versions with flexible access via the Web, on a mobile phone or with an e-mail client.

Say what!? An email client? That’s something I’d be interested in.

Available later this month in 11 languages worldwide, the new Microsoft Office Outlook Connector beta will enable people to view and manage their Windows Live Hotmail account from Outlook for free, with full contact, e-mail and e-mail folder synchronization.

I have Outlook open almost 24/7 as you know, so I’ll definitely be checking out the awkwardly named Connector. If they throw in the @live.com address too, I’ll be just peachy!

For more info, check out LiveSide.

Read: Microsoft

I would like an @live.com address!

Post ImageThe fine folks over at the LiveSide blog had the chance to interview Omar Shahine and Ellie Powers-Boyle of the Windows Live Hotmail team this morning, and they asked some great questions. The reason for the chat was to talk about Windows Live Hotmail, which started its rollout to selected markets this week. You can download the 25 minute MP3 file here, but I figured I’d transcribe the most interesting part:

“Our short term concerns are around taking our existing user base, which is currently using the @hotmail.com namespace primarily, and making sure that they have a smooth transition. Once we feel that we’ve gotten that work sort of comfortably under our belt, we’ll move on to things like the @live.com namespace…”

So it sounds like users will be able to acquire an @live.com email address at some point. It would definitely make for a pretty cool email address – sign me up!

Read: LiveSide

Yahoo Mail gets better

Post ImageI haven’t used Yahoo! Mail in ages, but two bits of news caught my eye today regarding the service. The first, is that Yahoo! is going to start offering unlimited storage in May:

The unlimited storage will begin rolling out globally in May, and Yahoo expects to have all of its customers covered within a month, except for China and Japan. “We will continue working with these markets on their storage plans,” Kremer said.

Yahoo! is the first of the big players to launch unlimited storage. I can’t imagine Google and Microsoft will be far behind.

The feature is important for further development, as Om Malik reports:

What it shows is that the company is beginning to think of Yahoo Mail as a platform, leveraging cheap storage and a mega audience.

I think the other shoe is going to drop tomorrow when Yahoo in all likelihood is going to announce a Yahoo Mail API, which would open up the service to third party developers.

Really?! An API for a mail service? That would be pretty darn cool, I have to admit.

Read: Yahoo! Mail

Outlook 2007 HTML rendering is crippled

Post ImageThe more I learn about it, the more Outlook 2007 continues to suck. First it was problems with downloading POP email, and now David Greiner tells us that HTML rendering in Outlook 2007 uses the Word engine rather than Internet Explorer:

Imagine for a second that the new version of IE7 killed off the majority of CSS support and only allowed table based layouts. The web design world would be up in arms! Well, that’s exactly what the new version of Outlook does to email designers.

You can see a full list of what is and isn’t supported at MSDN.

David wonders why Microsoft has done this, and suggests security, consistent rendering, and “they hate us” as possible explanations. I suspect security is the main reason, but like David points out, IE7 is a big step foward in security! They should just require use of IE7’s rendering engine.

So what does this mean for the average user?

All it means is that a lot of HTML emails in Outlook will be garbled and difficult to read. Nothing more, nothing less.

That sucks, especially since IE7 is pretty darn good at CSS rendering. And to be clear, it doesn’t matter if you think the world should only use text-based email. HTML email is not going to go away, and if Outlook is going to render it, I’d rather it do so correctly.

Read: Campaign Monitor

Do spammers get spammed?

Post ImageLarry posted yesterday about the many kinds of spam he receives, including some that could not possibly result in any revenue for anyone. I get some of that too. The most interesting kind I have gotten lately is spam with the subject line “hi mack” or “hi mmale” – they are getting better! Anyway, Larry has a pretty common idea for punishing the spammers:

There are those that advocate capital punishment for spammers. I think we should just sentence them to a lifetime of receiving spam themselves.

I hear this all the time, and it just makes me laugh. I think it’s safe to assume there’s a person behind every piece of spam that gets sent (someone has to turn on the computer in the first place) – we’ll call them the spammer. So why would anyone think that the spammer is exempt from getting spam? I bet the spammers get just as much spam as the rest of us.

Read: Larry Borsato