RockMelt Shows How Facebook, Social Networks Could Replace E-Mail

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RockMelt Shows How Facebook, Social Networks Could Replace E-Mail

by Clint Boulton

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Past and Present

Gartner analyst Monica Basso noted that while organizations leveraged e-mail and other business-oriented collaboration applications in the past, the popularity of Facebook has spurred the creation of enterprise social network tools that include presence capabilities. These include IBM Lotus Connections and suites from Jive Software, Awareness and others.

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Microblogging from Twitter spurred enterprise-oriented providers such as Yammer and Socialcast to provide a short sweet option for interpersonal communications. Basso said new college graduates "come into the workforce with a predisposition to communicate via a social network, but they will use e-mail in parallel. The rigid distinction between e-mail and social networks will erode. E-mail will take on many social attributes, such as contact brokering, while social networks will develop richer e-mail capabilities." We're seeing it now.

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Microsoft, IBM Get Social

Basso said Microsoft and IBM will add links to internal and external social networks from within e-mail clients and servers, making services such as contacts, calendars and tasks shareable across e-mail and social networks. Microsoft offers the Outlook Social Connector in Office 2010 to let users access Facebook and MySpace updates, photos and activities within Outlook.

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Cloud Collaboration

Thanks to Google's cloud computing evangelism around Google Apps for the last three years and Microsoft's strong adoption of the cloud in 2010, Gartner analysts expect steep growth rates for sales of on-premise and cloud-based social networking services.

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Mobile Collaboration

Don't forget mobile collaboration, which Gartner said will be led by Microsoft and Research in Motion. Gartner forecasts that by 2012, RIM and Microsoft will own 80 percent of the enterprise wireless e-mail software market.

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Cloud and mobile are clearly stirring the collaboration pot for the present and future. Later we may look back at the launch of RockMelt Nov. 7 as a watershed event in this trend. RockMelt envelops the Chromium-based Web browser in Facebook, allowing users to post messages and share without having to navigate directly to Facebook and Twitter.

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Gartner believes social network messaging may supplant e-mail for 20 percent of businesses within the next 5 years. RockMelt could help push this trend. For example, in testing RockMelt this week, eWEEK found that we could find a link on the Web and share it with friends in our Facebook or Twitter network.

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Direct Message

However, we could also simply send it as a direct message via Facebook or Twitter in the same context. In this case, RockMelt's sharing capabilities have enabled us to e-mail a contact in our business network.

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Whats the Point?

So we used RockMelt to send an e-mail to a colleague from the browser. What's the big deal, right? The big deal is that normally when we would find a link or news article we wanted to share, we would copy and paste into Outlook, where our business contacts all live. Because our business contacts are also in Facebook, RockMelt now enables us to message people directly right from the browser without having to navigate to Facebook or Outlook to contact someone. The middleman is cut out, which saves users time. This is the sort of efficiency that will propel the rise of social networks within businesses.

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Up to Businesses

Some businesses may forbid employees from using Facebook, which would ostensibly prohibit them from using RockMelt. Gartner said organizations must make these capabilities widely available. "Technology is only an enabler; culture is a must for success," Basso said.

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