Facebook Project Titan Preps to Challenge Google Gmail

Facebook Nov. 15 will unleash Project Titan to challenge Google's Gmail and other messaging solutions in the crowded market for Web-based e-mail clients.

Facebook Nov. 15 will launch a Webmail application to challenge Google's Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Windows Live Hotmail and other messaging solutions.

Facebook sent out media invites to a 10 a.m. launch event in San Francisco hours before the start of the Web 2.0 Summit in that city. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is expected to speak there Nov. 16.

TechCrunch said Facebook will launch the Webmail client, code-named Project Titan, at this event. The Webmail client will include personal @facebook.com e-mail addresses for the social network's 500 million-plus users.

ZDNet said Titan will also be integrated with Microsoft's Office Web Apps suite, allowing Facebook users to create and share Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents. This integration would be the evolution of Microsoft Docs.

Facebook spokesperson Meredith Chin declined to "comment on speculation around future products" for eWEEK Nov. 12.

Facebook's choice of building a Webmail client in a world where Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and others already support more than 1 billion Webmail users may seem odd at first blush because the company offers Web-based communications.

The social network's messaging platform enables direct message capability and one-to-many sharing of messages, links, photos and videos. Facebook also offers a Web-based chat client, which provides capable presence.

Creating a Web-based e-mail client in addition to these capabilities may seem like overkill, unless the plan is to make the app the bedrock of the platform's communications.

Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang told eWEEK that while Facebook's existing communications is suitable for rapid, short messages, an e-mail client would move users into the rest of the communications suite.

"People use a variety of communication tools in their daily arsenal with both social networking, SMS, and e-mail as primary tools," Owyang said.

"By extending their product features, they're poised to spend more time with consumers, increasing the revenue opportunities. This is a good move for them."

Facebook certainly has the talent to do this.

The company acquired social network aggregator FriendFeed last year, which was created by Gmail creators Bret Taylor and Paul Bucheit. Bucheit just jumped to Y Combinator, but Taylor is Facebook's CTO.

But has Facebook created an open messaging platform akin to Gmail, or will it place restrictions on what data Facebook users can shuttle from the Webmail application?

Facebook's recent tiff with Google over data portability makes these salient questions.

Read more about Project Titan here.