Web Life Made Simpler by Becoming More Difficult, Again
By Paul Young
Today, Facebook held a special event in San Fransisco to announce a new email, or IM, or SMS, or some sort of messaging system kind of thing that will soon be going into effect so as to make online messaging simpler – “simpler” being the key word here.
“You shouldn’t have to wade through a very complex product with a lot of features,” exclaimed Mark Zuckerberg, in that voice of his that never seems to be too sure of itself. “You know, a lot of people today expected — okay — Facebook’s going to add more features to messaging.” (This, he said strategically, right before landing the money line.) “[But] we think we should take features away from messaging.”
He goes on to say that messaging should be minimal. “It should be simpler.”
However, just as how you should never judge a book by its cover, the first few minutes of his presentation should not be considered indicative of the alleged simplicity of this new, well, for lack of a better word, feature.
Once he gets into the details of what this new feature will be all about, the all too familiar and expected happens, where the true meaning of Zuckerberg’s “simpler” reveals itself as “more complicated.”
“Um, it’s not email,” he said. “It handles email. In addition to Facebook messages. And Facebook IM. And other IM. And SMS. And all the different ways that you communicate.”
He goes on to admit that, “Um, it’s true. People are going to be able to have Facebook.com email addresses. But this is not email. Email is one way people will be able to use this system. But we don’t even think it’s going to be the primary way people use this system.”
From that jumble of semi-contradictory statements, the Facebook community can infer that a new type of Facebook email system — except it’s not an email system, it only uses email, but not really, sort of, partially, maybe — will soon be available.
This quasi-email system (and then some) will conveniently mesh together all our emails and IMs and texts and whatever else we use to communicate online into one simple inbox, an inbox Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook presumably hopes will further seal their deal on monopolizing the now apparent battleground of a Web — battleground thanks to Google (think Gmail, among other things), or Facebook; it depends on who you see as the real aggressor.
But won’t this new email system, quasi or not, Facebook’s or Google’s (or some other future company’s), be just one more application out of, well, a dozen others that we have to sync stuff to and forward stuff to and reinstall stuff to and pay attention to? In other words, at the end of the day, it’s still going to be just one more application to worry about. Should we really be all that excited? Should Google be all that concerned? After all, how will this be any different from the smart phone? Don’t our BlackBerrys and iPhones essentially do this already?
Whether this really will make communicating online simpler, and thus life in general simpler, we’ll have to wait and see to know for sure; if there’s anything we’ve learned from Facebook, it’s that we should never underestimate their capabilities.
Zuckerberg will always be considered a genius; no one can really argue against that. But for now, what’s of greatest certainty (and concern) is the fact that those tech geeks over in Silicon Valley seriously don’t seem to realize how the rest of the world doesn’t think, let alone speak like them. Which probably explains why most, if not all these new inventions being passed off as “innovations” make our lives as human beings actually, remarkably more complex — not simpler.
Kudos to Zuckerberg and all his ideas, seriously; I probably know less than 5% of what’s in that brain of his. But perhaps what he really needs to invent, or re-invent, rather, is the idea of communicating with people without Facebook. Like, for example, in real life, over coffee, or a nice dinner.
And if that’s too much to ask for, then one can’t help but wonder: What’s so wrong with plain old traditional email? My current account works just fine. And I at least know what to call it.
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Tagged Announcements, Communication, Complexity, Email, Facebook, Innovation, Internet, Mark Zuckerberg, Messaging, Online, Paul Asher Young, San Fransisco, Silicon Valley, Simplicity, Social Media, Social Networking, Traditional, Web 2.0
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