Facebook’s secret plan to replace email

At Facebook’s Headquarters yesterday, Zuckerberg and a strong supporting cast of internal department heads as well as heads of outside companies such as Groupon and Zynga presented Facebook’s mobile strategy. The most important piece shared was their single-sign on (SSO) efforts, which make it incredibly easy to log onto other mobile apps using your Facebook profile. What wasn’t discussed was the significance of this development to have your Facebook account replace your email account. If successful, Facebook will have successfully positioned itself between marketers and customers, becoming the required toll-road for marketers looking to reach their audience.

e-mail – your common thread

e-mail is no longer the only form of digital communication. Between, texting, chatting, tweeting, etc, there are many ways to converse with others online. When Ron Alsop was writing The Trophy Kids Grow Up, he found that Facebook messages almost always resulted in an immediate response, as opposed to email which would often go unanswered. With all of these other forms of communication, email could be seen as antiquated.

But e-mail does serve as that critical identifier for an individual. Account verification, password resets, and other critical account information is delivered to your email address. When you register with  a new site, your email address is used to verify who you are. Facebook’s Single Sign On changes all of that.

Facebook’s Mobile Chief, Erik Tseng, introduced Single Sign On as a great simplifier for users. No longer do you need to remember and enter your account information when moving through the web. All you need to do is click the ‘Login with Facebook’ icon and you are in. The presentation highlighted what an advancement this will be for consumers. And Groupon’s chief remarked how easy it was to implement, claiming it only took ‘3 lines of code’. On the surface this seems like a great advancement for all.

The SSO Trojan Horse

First, this is a great advancement for consumers, as long as they have Facebook profiles. At sign-ons for sites and applications, users will be presented with the option to remember login and password details or simply hit the blue button. For those who don’t have Facebook profiles. This ‘easy path’ using Facebook will be a constant reminder to join the 500 million others.

But for marketers, e-mails have been a critical means to communicate to consumers. Now if Facebook’s single sign on can replace registering via email, marketers no longer have that communication means to market to consumers. All messages are sent to Facebook accounts, not email accounts. Facebook will have inserted itself between the marketer and the consumer. And the significance of using Facebook for registering means that the Facebook account will be your primary account for authentication, just as email is today.

Facebook is leveraging its size and reach to further weave itself into our online experience. Through efforts such as single sign on, Facebook is further integrating itself outside of its .com and into our lives.

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