You know the saying “don’t mix business with pleasure”. Yet websites repeatedly try to mix productivity with entertainment.
The news of Facebook’s improved messaging system had the blogosphere ready to declare the death of gmail, but we never heard that declaration again after the announcement. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg was clear that the system would not be an email killer. If Facebook really wants an email killer, I argue they need another entry point, because something productive like messaging does not fit into the rest of the product.
Facebook has already been offering messaging for years, and I find one glaring problem: each time I log into Facebook to read or send a message, I am immediately distracted by my newsfeed, and forget what I set out to do. Productivity requires commitment and focus. Procrastination is easy, so to require someone in productive mode to log into a service that lends itself to procrastination is a huge problem. Even if Facebook’s new messaging system allows me to send a message more quickly, the distractions while getting to the inbox are ultimately going to result in a loss of time. Facebook needs an entry point that takes users directly to their messaging without seeing the newsfeed; the current URL http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages does not suffice.
There is a major divide between entertainment and productivity destinations. This may also explain why Google struggles to build a product like Facebook or Twitter. You go to Google to get things done, not to socialize – it’s a different state of mind. And while YouTube is obviously entertainment, it was an acquisition and is accessed through a completely different entry point. Because Gmail and Google Search are both productivity tools, I have no problem going to https://mail.google.com/mail/ for messaging. But I won’t go to http://www.google.com/youtube for my entertainment. If you think about it, that’s just weird.
Maybe one day someone will successfully bridge the divide between entertainment and productivity. Maybe someone will even find a way to connect the two. But until then, it’s best to focus on one or the other, or at least keep them separate.