Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Welcome to Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. Please Fix the Mail!


Dear Sheryl,

First off, I hope you had a nice first day at Facebook as the new COO, or, as BoomTown is going to call you forthwith: Where-The-Buck-Now- Stops.

Now that you have been issued your official social-networking company flip-flops and gotten your arms around the Beacon issue (here’s a Cliff Note on that debacle for you: AVOID!), I am here at the head of the complaints line, ready to start yammering on.

And today’s yammer? For the love of SuperPokes, please fix Facebook’s mail!

While I know this is not in your purview (products are under Matt Cohler, who is under Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whom you are under), I really don’t care.

All I know is that it is a major problem within the Facebook service and its continued lameness will eventually strain your audience’s patience and, ultimately, its size. And a smaller audience means less advertising–which is your sweet spot!

If you don’t believe me, see where the lack of innovation with AOL’s (TWX) email service–which was once dominant–led. Hotmail (MSFT), Yahoo Mail (YHOO), Gmail (GOOG).

Why? Well, you could not do anything good with the mail, which was trapped inside AOL (the original blockers of data portability) and very few good options were available to save, store and manipulate it within the closed AOL service.

And there are even fewer features in your closed service. I cannot move the mail. I cannot sort it. I cannot search it. I cannot move it here and there.

What can I do? I can “Mark It As Unread,” “Mark It As Read” and “Delete” it. Wheeeeeee.

Currently, for example, I have 154 messages waiting for me in my Facebook email box that I cannot be bothered to open. Why?

Well, I already get alerted to them in my regular mail in full text, so why bother? Usually, I ask Facebook emailers to send me email directly to my regular email address in my reply.

As for sent mail? I can add a video, or share a link or send a gift (no, I am not sending you a digital ice cream cone ever!) and little else.

And while I know you have announced a soon-to-appear chat feature, it sounds suspiciously as under-featured at launch as your mail is now.

It apparently cannot be seen outside Facebook and will not integrate with popular services like AIM, third-party apps cannot be built on it and it is one-on-one only.

You can see the problem here. While I realize you would rather focus on more youth-loving stuff like your Wall (we’ll get to that later), it still seems as if top-notch communications apps should be a priority at Facebook if it wants to become, as Zuckerberg has said many times, my “social utility.”

And right now, mail–at least–is pretty useless.

Tomorrow: Data portability!

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald