inbox – Stay N Alive

Facebook Prepares to Compete With Gmail: Launches Messaging API

FacebookFacebook is moving too fast this week for me to keep up.  On the heels of the Acquisition of Gmail-creator-founded FriendFeed, along with the launch of their new search interface, Facebook just took it one step further today.  In an announcement on their blog along with associated documentation on their developers wiki, Facebook released a set of new APIs for developers to begin writing software that enables them to read and display a user’s inbox and messages from Facebook Platform.

While Facebook has offered a rich set of APIs since the launch of their developer platform in 2007, Facebook’s messaging system has remained stagnant and seemingly untouched during the entire period.  Developers have been itching to get into the messages of a user on their behalf to help fix this.  Not only is Facebook opening this up for developers, but they are also getting ready to launch an entirely new messaging system being tested by a small group of users currently, set to launch “in the coming weeks”.  Facebook also launched an interface into their notifications API enabling developers to read and notify users when they receive new notifications.  I expect this to be used in Desktop applications such as Seesmic.

While people are speculating the fate of FriendFeed after the new acquisition, there seems to be two things on the mind of Facebook recently: Messaging and Search.  With the creator of Gmail on their team and co-founder of one of the best real-time search engines on the internet (that just so happens to have a superior Direct Messaging system as well), you can bet Facebook is already putting him hard at work in helping them on such features.  I hope and expect to see this new API implemented into FriendFeed’s own messaging system, as well – hopefully enabling you to import your Facebook inbox into FriendFeed’s own DM box.  We’ll wait and see.

It’s no secret that E-mail is an old and out-dated technology.  It only goes to say that we’re in a race now for the fastest, most real-time, and responsive messaging system to replace e-mail.  While Google moves forward with Wave, you can bet Facebook will be doing the same with their own messaging.  With the ability to now truly identify individuals socially without need for an actual “address”, E-mail may actually be going by the wayside.

Gmail has yet to launch any sort of API into its own messaging (that I’m aware of) – this move by Facebook is unprecedented.  While Facebook will not allow developers to actually send messages on behalf of users (a wise and careful move, I’m sure), this makes Facebook even more “open” in my book.

Developers can sign up for the new messaging platform by signing up for the Inbox API whitelist.