To me, what's interesting about this isn't what features Fmail will offer -- because frankly, who the frak needs another Webmail service? It's what this means for Facebook, which has spent the last year churning out new products and features at a Google-like pace.
This is what happens when companies get too big too quickly. They confuse being lucky and good with being great and all powerful. They think they can do anything. They overreach. And then they fall. It happens to nearly all of them.
Google is a prime example. Its list of failed or failing projects (Orkut, Wave, and the Nexus One, for starters) is now almost as long as its list of successes. For the past year or so, Google has been dining on a steady diet of cow paddies in black bean sauce (Google.cn, anyone?).
Microsoft has been overreaching since Steve Ballmer still had hair, believing that its near-monopoly over the desktop and dominance of office suites gave it the power to dictate everything else we use. That's not been working out for the company very well lately, nor will it in the future.
Of all the big momentum shifters in tech, Apple has been the most deliberate and as a result has suffered the fewest faceplants. True, Apple TV never gained the cult following of other MacInJobs masterworks, possibly because Jobs himself never seemed all that excited about it. But Apple has never sought to be everything to everybody or to play the volume game. It has done quite well marketing pricier products to the digital elite -- or people who aspired to be the digital elite through the act of buying Apple products. It's a neat trick, if you can pull it off.
And now Facebook, which wants to be your social network, your photo and video sharing conduit, your search engine, your recommendations machine, your geolocator, your coupon distributor, and (apparently) your email service. This may well be its jump-the-cartilaginous-killer-fish moment.
When you try to be all things to all people, you risk being nothing to no one. I think I saw that on a fortune cookie somewhere.
Is Facebook getting sharky? If so, should we start calling it Fishbook? Post your thoughts below or email me: email@example.com.
This article, "You've got Facemail! Now what?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringeley's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.