News Flash: Facebook Email is Already in Use!

Nov 14, 2010
2 minutes

Must have been a slow news day. Or we have just become accustomed to being inundated with news about Facebook. The point is, Facebook email has existed for sometime. Perhaps not as a standalone service like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail or Hotmail, but it is out there, it is used frequently and heavily. The existing email services should indeed be concerned about their marketshare.

As shown in my previous blog entry, webmail use, defined as those email programs most likely to be used for personal communications, is strong and vibrant within enterprise environments. The news that Facebook is expanding their webmail service should not be a surprise to anyone really, particularly since it has been one of the most frequently used webmail applications for 2 years running. From my previous entry on webmail:

  • Yahoo Mail, Gmail, and Hotmail consistently consumed the most webmail bandwidth. Note that webmail as a category, consumes 1% or less of all traffic analyzed.
  • Facebook Mail has always been a popular webmail application, appearing in the top 5 most frequently used consistently.

Enhancing the existing webmail application is a classic market expansion. Facebook has a captive audience of more than 500 million users who use the application heavily. Why not expand the service offerings to include an more complete email service?

The table below analyzes the webmail traffic patterns viewed over the last four Application Usage and Risk reports.

Spring 2009 Fall 2009 Spring 2010 Fall 2010
Gmail 22% 25% 27% 22%
Yahoo Mail 20% 17% 15% 25%
Hotmail 18% 35% 30% 27%
Facebook Mail 0.2% (11th) 1% (6th) 1% (9th) 3% (5th)

Figure 1: Percentage of webmail bandwidth consumption by application.

The table shows that:

  • The top three webmail applications are consistent, although their rankings change slightly over time.
  • The intensity of usage for Facebook Mail, measured by bandwidth consumed, was far below that of the three leading applications, by a significant margin.
  • In just two years, the usage of Facebook mail has increased 15 fold, from 0.2% to 3%, nowhere near the other 3 applications but significant growth all the same.

Facebook is leveraging its beachhead that the social networking and add-on applications have established, which will make this a very interesting battle to watch from the sidelines.

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