Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Hey Facebook, This Launch Better Not Be Boring

Facebook on Monday plans to launch an email service for its users at a press event in San Francisco.

The young company has really gotten way too into these show-and-tell events. The formula is down pat: The usual crowd of tech bloggers and mainstream media types, plus some partners, show up at Facebook’s Palo Alto, Calif., office park and wait around for an awkward amount of time. Mark Zuckerberg walks up to the front of the company cafeteria and gives unscripted remarks about how great a few new products are. Product managers come demo them, questions are asked, lunch is served.

This time, at least, the Facebook product launch is in San Francisco, where the Web 2.0 Summit kicks off a little later in the day. (Google CEO Eric Schmidt goes on stage a couple hours after the Facebook event ends.)

Certainly, worse things could happen to me than having to write about a new Facebook product. But if the company wants to make such a big deal about these launches, it should come up with some really great stuff and/or bunch it all together (see: Steve Jobs).

It’s not so much the events; it’s the products themselves. Facebook’s last few launches–coming out of a self-imposed “lockdown” period of intense product development and much overtime work by employees–haven’t knocked any socks off: A gaming platform redesign, the Places check-in tool, a revised Groups feature, a way for users to download their archive of activity on the service, the Kleiner Perkins sFund launch (which Facebook got roped into hosting), single sign-on for mobile, the beginnings of a deals platform. And there were a few launches made sans event: Facebook Questions, high-resolution photos, etc.

All these are nice enough but, at best, slow-burn products. So far, none of them dramatically impact the way the majority of users value and experience Facebook.

That’s because many of them are fringe products; for instance, Pew says only 4 percent of U.S. online adults have ever shared their location with friends using a mobile device. Surely, Facebook can raise those user numbers, but location-sharing is not a mainstream activity and won’t be for a long time.

Still, even as I am bitching, I am setting Facebook up to succeed, because email is actually a mainstream product. The company will have to come through on the feature front, but there’s a good chance tomorrow’s launch could actually matter.

We can only hope.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.

Image courtesy Flickr user Robert Scoble.