A few hours ago, we learned that Facebook was retiring its email service. When they launched it 3 years ago, they wanted to make e-mail less formal and all in one place. “We think we should take features away from messaging – it should be simple.” (Mark Zuckerberg, 2010).
Here are some reasons why they failed.
They did not create a friendly or familiar interface for emailing
Email was created more than 40 years ago and today, the bar for a minimum viable user interface in this space is extremely high. (See Sparrow, Airmail, Mailpilot and more: they were all designed to improve Gmail’s interface in terms of aesthetic, speed, and efficiency). Facebook had in mind to introduce a product that would similarly integrate SMS, e-mail, and chat in a more convenient one-stop communication basket, but this basket was Facebook and the interface was not as good as expected for e-mails.
They did not respect the standard of e-mails
Facebook team chose not to support cc’s, bcc’s, subject lines, or attachments. The reason they gave was that most email conversations were on-the-fly, real time conversations and therefore did not need all these options. Butwe always end up needing these little features and realize we always assumed it was there.
E-mail is still the most powerful tool of the internet, and though it needs to be a bit shaken, I think it shouldn’t be through extreme simplification.