The elderly talk on their landlines. The middle-aged folk use e-mail and cell phones. Teens use IM and text message (to send their naked pictures). Different demographics communicate in vastly different ways. Facebook has realized this, and it aims to unite communication into one simple system. That system is Project Titan.
Project Titan is directed at competing with Gmail, Google’s web-based e-mail behemoth. Each individual user can obtain an e-mail address in the @facebook.com domain while enabling a larger communication spectrum that reaches across to chat, IM, and text message. In their announcement on November 15th, 2010, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Director of Engineering Andrew Bosworth, stressed that Project Titan is “not an e-mail killer.” This new messaging system is built around the principle of seamless messaging across platforms. On the one hand, Gmail revolutionized web-based e-mail through a system of individual e-mail conversations among multiple users. Titan expands on that by creating a conversation from SMS, chat, e-mail, and Facebook IM. These interfaces will all combine to create a common thread viewable in multiple places.
As a law student, this revolutionary system of messaging will greatly enhance how I communicate with others. For example, if I am planning an event, I can send out an invitation through e-mail to a person who then will confirm with me. If they have a quick question about the event, they’ll see me on Facebook Chat and inquire about their concerns. Then, if that person needs a reminder much closer to the time of the event, I can shoot them a text message. All of these communications will be merged into one single thread through Project Titan. This may very well end the days of forgetting if you told someone that an event’s dress code was business casual. If your friend shows up to an event in a t-shirt and jeans, you can point to your archived Facebook Chat to prove that you told him. With classes, lunch meetings, attorney mixers, intramural sports, and other obligations, Project Titan will make strides in simplifying my law school life.
Facebook is attempting to expand on what it already does best, spam filtering. Currently, if someone does not want to be contacted by, or even seen by, someone else, he or she can permanently block that person on Facebook. In Project Titan, a similar concept is accomplished through the Social Inbox. The Social Inbox works as a spam filter in that, if you choose, it will only show messages from your friends.
Using Facebook, one’s abilities to share media will be greatly enhanced. Someone can text you a link to a YouTube video, and you can click it and view it right on your phone. Even if you’re living in the dark ages with that crumby T9-sporting dumbphone, that text will be saved so you can come back to it later on a computer. This is aimed directly at one of the key features of Google Chat, videos embedded inside conversations. Through this, Facebook is attempting to make media sharing a much more intuitive procedure than it has been in the past.
There are several important things to consider for the average Facebook user in choosing to adopt this new system of messaging. First and foremost, each user will have the opportunity to have his or her Facebook username as an @facebook.com address. While having everything in one place might be good for some people, there is a feeling that this will not be appropriate for work and school. If one does start using this e-mail address, his or her employer may not feel comfortable forwarding messages to it because of privacy concerns. Facebook accounts have been hacked into, and a company may want to avoid an employee’s transition to a Facebook e-mail because company secrets may become vulnerable to attack. Obviously, a traditional social platform such as Facebook may have trouble being serious in the big-time legal world, in which we all aspire to be.
As with everything, we must look at Project Titan for what it is, a great idea stuck in its 1.0 phase. Facebook will throw marketing towards Titan adoption, but it also realizes that it’s a growing technology. The system will probably not be that intuitive and thus, at first, harder for the average person to use. Also, phone makers must be willing to play ball with Facebook if tighter integration with mobile platforms is to be achieved. Currently, Facebook Chat is not a key feature on many mobile phones. In addition, YouTube seems to be the only video interface to be widely adopted on the leading mobile operating systems. Needless to say, heavyweights such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft will want to push their own social solutions into Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7.
This may be a stumbling block at first, but this commentator believes that Project Titan has the right people behind it to ensure a brighter future for this social networking revolution.
In a Google world, Facebook is attempting to make its mark. While Facebook will never exemplify the truly widespread entrepreneurial spirit of Google, it’s concentrating on expanding what it’s already good at. Google has brought us Maps, Goggles, Gmail, Calendar, and Documents, and it has gained a great amount of market share because of it. Meanwhile, Facebook has mainly done social networking right, and it’s happy with that. With Project Titan, it’s marking its territory as the pinnacle of the social internet, but also as a key player in messaging. This is a great leap forward for communication, but it remains to be seen if we’ll all quit our Gmail habits to start anew with Facebook. As for myself, Project Titan will ensure that I pay less attention in class than I do now. Zuckerberg, you are an evil genius!