hello facebook vs google. goodbye microsoft. nice try aol: the future of instructional technology

Facebook vs. GmailFacebook has taken the next step in its quest for world domination of people’s online lives. Facebook email (codenamed “Project Titan”) was introduced today:

While the new product will incorporate @facebook.com e-mail addresses, Zuckerberg said it will be more than just Gmail competition. It will offer three key features other e-mail services lack: seamless messaging across a variety of platforms, including SMS and texting; conversation history across those platforms; and a “social in-box,” meaning the company can filter the in-box just to include messages from friends.

Of course, the problem with email is that it’s old. Who under 30 years of age uses email anymore outside of their work-mandated email? Today, messaging is done instantaneously with text messaging, chat, and video conferencing. Email is what my generation (I’m 37) uses when communicating with those who aren’t on Facebook or don’t carry wireless devices.

Google made an earlier attempt at rethinking email with its Google Wave, on which it has stopped development. Now Facebook is giving it a try. In adding email, Facebook is essentially hedging a bet against Google, just in case email lingers for another decade. If Facebook can add email to its social networking offerings before Google can add social networking to its assortment of apps (remember Google Buzz?), then Facebook may be able to wrest away the throngs of users that are fleeing Microsoft exchange for Gmail. Add to this the impact that Apple is making on Microsoft with its Macs and the iPhone, and the transformation of modern media is complete. The biggest loser in all of this is Microsoft. (We’re not counting AOL’s “Project Phoenix” – Elvis left the building years ago.) Google docs will continue to do away with MS Office; iPhone, iTunes, and the Mac computer line will continue to erode away at the Microsoft operating systems (methinks they’re on Windows 7 now) and media players; and Facebook will continue to devour all social interaction.

We are left with a world that will use Google Android and Apple iPhones to access all communications, including the internet. (Sure, there are other phones and service providers, but how will they compete with Google Voice long term? Cable companies should be wary as well, as both Google TV and Apple TV are here.) Apple will continue to offer its Macs as a computing solution, while Google is adopting the cloud solution with its Chrome OS.  Google will continue to be the search engine of choice, and Google Docs, Earth (which should merge with Maps), and Calendar, will continue to provide the free, cloud-based apps to businesses and individuals alike, thereby continuing to vex Microsoft’s dying business model. Google Voice, an assortment of mobile voice tools superior to those of most wireless companies, will continue to erode at the very old school models of phone communications and the less antiquated, but hat-handed wireless companies by offering a free alternative to voice mail and dirt cheap long distance service. Meanwhile, Facebook (and FB apps on Droid and iPhones) will become the place for all social interactions, especially for the younger generations.

As far as higher education is concerned, the first company sync Facebook profiles with university class rosters, harness Google Docs, YouTube, and Wikipedia into a Moodle-style content management system wins. The first university to employ Facebook’s networking abilities, Google’s apps, and Wikipedia’s knowledge base with their library holdings will not only lead the way in online education for years to come, but will produce a revenue stream by exporting such a system to other universities.

If Facebook and Google have taught us anything, it is that cloud-based computing, social networking, and crowd-powered collaborative research are not only the future, they are the here and now. First one to get there wins.

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