Facebook Messaging and Messages: 10 Reasons Facebook + email + IM + SMS + archiving Matters


James F. Moore 2010

Facebook’s Modern Messaging System was announced today. It is phenomenal! You can witness the full event on livestream here.  Here are ten reasons Facebook’s messaging matters to all of us.

1. Instant messaging is the future. Facebook Modern Messaging is at its core instant messaging among friends. Why instant messaging? The newest generation–high school students–more or less only use IM or SMS. IM is fast, simple, and easy. Email is a legacy system with lots of cognitive load: addresses, subject headings, salutations. Non-essential. KK?

2. Modern Messaging sucks up and spits out email. Email is a legacy system that lots of people use. E.g. high school teachers, as well as Facebook engineers. :)- So Facebook Modern Messaging communicates by email, as well other end media such as SMS and smartphone apps. You can send messages to a friend in Facebook Messaging from whatever source you like. You can receive messages wherever you are. Facebook routing provides a central exchange point. There are no silos, no unsupported platforms. However, you have social permission and the tools to move to the simplest media, IM, for most of your relationships.  You may.

3. Facebook Modern Messaging creates narratives: a story-line for every relationship you have. Messages are saved in person-to-person threads, and can be easily displayed (0ne click) in historical sequence, back to the beginning. A use of personal history was demoed at the announcement. The lead engineer displayed (quickly) the history of his four year relationship with his girlfriend. From “let’s have coffee” to moving in together, to discussing furniture and cats. We all live for stories. We thrive when we can review them. Do you keep a journal? Of course you should. But do you? Of course not. Now you will. Read your own stories. Enjoy.

4. Facebook is the most personal of worlds, and Modern Messaging is the most personal of messaging.  Click on a face of a friend to send a message.  See a new message accompanied by the face of a friend.  You don’t have to think about communication means and media.  Just think about the people you like.  If you want more context for a message, one click shows your shared history, and another click their Facebook page.

5.  Your social graph is your main filter of messages.  Modern Messaging displays one view of messages from friends and priority sources.  This is your main space.  This is where you likely will live.  Your communication will speed up with these people.  Modern Messaging offers a second view for messages that you want to receive, but don’t want mixed up with the most important and enjoyable mail.  (Zuckerberg: “Most people will probably check this once a day”).

6.  You can bounce emails and other messages from people and sources not on your  friend list.  This means that even if your private email address “gets out” you don’t have to change addresses to shut out unwanted contact.  Bounce it.  This feature, plus a spam filter, will go a long way toward making the overall communication experience enjoyable again.

7.  You can easily add attachments to Modern Messages.  Photos, songs, posters, letters.  And all the attachments are available essentially forever within each friend-to-friend thread-archive.  Like a box full of old love letters and photographs.  How valuable is that?  The story AND the songs.

8.  Facebook is creating the world’s largest oral history, and we each can be represented.  Each of the friend-to-friend thread-archives is instantly available to both friends–that is, to you and your friend.  Now, imagine dozens to hundreds of narrative threads radiating out from you to your many many friends, and in parallel from each of these friends to you and to the rest of their network of friends.  What Facebook has established is a dense social history, accessible and open, all the time, to those who created it.  And all this happens without any conscious effort on anyone’s part.  It happens without anyone needing to anticipate the value of any of these items, and of any particular friendship and its path into the future.  Say you have that first “let’s have coffee” with twenty or more potential girlfriends or boyfriends.  How will you know which initial message to save for posterity?  Now you don’t have to chose until later, after some relationships unfold, and others fold up.

9.  Facebook Modern Messaging is designed for simplicity.  What is not in matters.  Mark Zuckerberg gave one example at the announcement:  email jockeys often have multiple folders for different types of messages exchanged with the same person. By design, Facebook Messaging does not do this.  Facebook Messaging makes only one thread for each relationship.  Journaling, with all topics interlaced in an unfolding history, combined in the person-to-person connection–trumps over topics and buckets. And the really really good news is not found in this or any particular simplifying move, but in the overall strategy of simplification and elegance.  Most people want simple and fast over complex and comprehensive.  Put Facebook squarely in the center of the design philosophy of Apple and the iPhone, 37signals and Basecamp, and millions of high school kids using IM.

10.  Strike another bell for the power of sharing, of real names, of authenticity, of being who you are, of personal connections.  Yes, privacy advocates will go nuts (see #8).  So what?  Facebook has demonstrated over and over that sharing itself is the core benefit of the web, and perhaps a key to making the world a better place.  True security is not gained by trying to remain an anonymous surfer.  True security on the web is being surrounded by your friends, being able to develop real relationships, and increasing the daily velocity and depth of near face-to-face communication.

11.  (free bonus reasons from folks smarter than me) It will be spam-free, opt-in-only, yet marketers will love it.  Win/win.  Read more in this excellent piece by J.D. Falk.

12. It will be big, as shown in these timely charts from Jay Yarow and Kamelia Angelova.

excerpt from “Business ecosystems and the view from the firm” Antitrust Bulletin, Fall 2005


The Antitrust Bulletin/Fall 2005

Business ecosystems and the view from the firm


I. Introduction

For more than sixty years, markets and hierarchies have dominated our thinking about economic organization. The classic statement of markets and hierarchies as the two primary forms of economic organization is by Ronald H. Coase, The Nature of the Firm (1937) reprinted in OLIVER E. WILLIAMSON & SIDNEY G. WINTER (eds.), THE NATURE OF THE FIRM: ORIGINS, EVOLUTION, AND DEVELOPMENT (1991; subsequent economic policy study based on this dichotomy is surveyed in WILLIAMSON & WINTER (ibid.) and its systematic implications for antitrust in OLIVER E. WILLIAMSON, MARKETS AND HIERARCHIES: ANALYSIS AND ANTITRUST IMPLICATIONS (1975).

This paper suggests that a third form, the ecosystem organizational form, has now become so important in practice that it should be accorded equal recognition in theory and in policy-making. Markets, hierarchies and ecosystems are the three pillars of modern business thinking, and should provide the foundation for competition policy, regulation, and antitrust actions. I am pleased to contribute to this issue of the Antitrust Bulletin as a member of the American Antitrust Institute Invitational Roundtable on Complexity, Networks and the Modernization of Antitrust, American Antitrust Institute, April 26, 2005.

The ecosystem form of economic coordination has become pervasive on the business landscape. For comprehensive treatment of the business ecosystem organizational form and its applications, see JAMES F. MOORE, THE DEATH OF COMPETITION: LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY IN THE AGE OF BUSINESS ECOSYSTEMS (1996); and MARCO IANSITI & ROY LEVIEN, THE KEYSTONE

ADVANTAGE: WHAT THE NEW DYNAMICS OF BUSINESS ECOSYSTEMS MEAN FOR STRATEGY, INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY (2004) Business ecosystems surround, permeate, and reshape markets and hierarchies. Managers establish business ecosystems to coordinate innovation across complementary contributions arising within multiple markets and hierarchies.

The activities of business ecosystems set the agenda for “co-evolution” of markets and hierarchies and their outputs. Co-evolution is a core concept in studies of complex adaptive systems and the economy, focusing attention on reciprocal cycles of adaptation among one or more elements of an economic system. Uses of the term in business and economics range from the highly abstract and mathematical, to the empirical. For a mathematical treatment see PHILIP W. ANDERSON, KENNETH J. ARROW, DAVID PINES (ed), THE ECONOMY AS A COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEM (1988). Strategists such as MOORE (1996) op. cit., and IANSITI & LEVIEN (2004) op. cit. provide detailed empirical descriptions of co-evolution in action, demonstrating reciprocal interactions among technologies, business processes, products and services, market mechanisms, firm and ecosystem structures, and policy and regulation. CARLISS Y. BALDWIN & KIM B. CLARK, DESIGN RULES: THE POWER OF MODULARITY (2000) present highly detailed and fascinating studies of co-evolution between technical modularity in products, and the networks of firms that arise to produce them.

The focus of companies in most sectors has progressed from competing on efficiency and effectiveness to competing on the basis of continuous innovation. As companies have accelerated innovation in their own businesses, they have discovered that they can’t change the world alone. For every advance there are complementary innovations that must be joined in order that customers can benefit. These complementary advances often must co-evolve across company lines because no single firm has all of the required specialized knowledge and managerial resources necessary for the whole system. Indeed, a substantial solution to a customer need may require the participation of dozens or even hundreds of diverse contributors, each of which is a master of fast-moving, complex and subtle developments in its own domain. For a discussion of how innovation is coordinated by the business ecosystem organizational form, see James F. Moore, Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition, HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, (1883)

A senior executive might say “we need to promote a business ecosystem around our new product” or “the iTunes ecosystem is becoming important for our company” or “our business ecosystem is becoming more standards-based and open.” The term “business ecosystem” and its plural, “business ecosystems,” refer to intentional communities of economic actors whose individual business activities share in some large measure the fate of the whole community. Companies making accessories for the Apple iPod can be said to be members of the iPod business community or, more evocatively, the iPod business ecosystem. The same can be said of the entertainment companies that license music through iTunes, the iPod-connected music downloading site, as well as the consumers who purchase and enjoy the music.

A business ecosystem, as we will see, can also be conceived as a network of interdependent niches that in turn are occupied by organizations. These niches can be said to be more or less open, to the degree to which they embrace alternative contributors.

One of the most exciting ideas in business today is that business ecosystems can be “opened up” to the entire world of potential contributions and creative participants.

In order for companies to co-evolve their goods and services, they must find ways to align their visions, so that research and development investments are mutually supportive, and capital investments and operating processes are synergistic. Companies must establish interfaces and protocols for putting together their contributions. Most important they must dialogue closely with customers so that what is created is what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. Mastering these challenges, of what might be called “distributed creativity,” is the aim of the ecosystem organizational form. The conventional hierarchical firm does not effectively address the breadth and importance of inter-firm relationships. The unaided market is not able to achieve inter-firm coordination sufficient to justify players aligning their dreams, plans, and product road maps. A seminal study of the failure of firms and/or markets to achieve such coordination and the rise of ecosystem-style “flexible specialization” is MICHAEL J. PIORE & CHARLES F. SABEL: THE SECOND INDUSTRIAL DIVIDE: POSSIBILITIES FOR PROSPERITY (1984)

Courts and regulators need to recognize the ecosystem form, appreciate its nature, structure and operation, and seek to support its contributions to pro-competitive and pro-innovative social outcomes. Antitrust cases that do not recognize this level of organization run the risk of ignoring and possibly damaging important collaborative, innovation-furthering public goods. Cases also run the risk of being used by opponents of a particular business ecosystem to undermine the effectiveness of an innovating community, thus making the courts unwitting tools of narrow competitive interests and inadvertently impairing collective advances that might benefit the whole society. In instances when leaders of business ecosystems seek to use their power in predatory or narrowly collusive ways, it is vital that regulators and courts be able to “connect the dots” and understand why particular actions are being undertaken, and anticipate their likely anticompetitive consequences.

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