Roughly half of these people are in Zimbabwe, and the other half in the Diaspora. The common denominator with all these friends and relatives is this; almost all of them created their first email address in the last 3 years. And the reason they created it was so they could sign up for a Facebook account. They didn’t need email, they needed a social network. Essentially, Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail, is just a gateway to Facebook and not the service they want.
Today, Facebook will announce a significant milestone in its bid to take over communication and social interaction on the Internet. There has been speculation about what the actual announcement is but indications are that Facebook will release an advanced email service to compete with Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Hotmail.
If this is true (which it most likely is), the need for an external gateway to Facebook that my friends and relatives currently have to put up with will vanish. Facebook will be your email and social identity in one. How convenient! And remember, there’s a formidable Bing-powered search engine doing web searches on Facebook currently. Facebook will be the total Internet solution so to speak.
Your internet home will be Facebook, and going forward there will be less and less need for you to leave Facebook for another web service.
Remember 2005? A big number of people who started using the Internet around that time didn’t even know what AltaVista was. They didn’t need to. Google could do everything they wanted to do on the Internet.
Today, people are getting introduced to the internet on Facebook. They only use Google (or Yahoo, or Hotmail) services to create an email address which they never really use beyond signing into Facebook. They can make all the communication they need with friends and family on Facebook. They can search the web on Facebook.
A few years from now, Google will slowly become the AltaVista of the Internet. It’s headed that way, unless Google disrupts it aggressively.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, Zimbabwe’s Internet penetration rate in June this year was 12.2%. This means the bulk of Zimbabweans are yet to get access to the Internet. Going forward, it’s not hard to imagine when these unconnected Zimbos get connected, Facebook is all they’ll know.
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