Thanks to the seepage of Facebook and Twitter in enterprises, social network services could replace e-mail for 20 percent of business users by 2014, Gartner said Nov. 11.
The researcher noted that e-mail giants Microsoft and IBM are connecting with their e-mail apps with social networks to make contacts, calendars and tasks shareable.
Microsoft is already doing a bit of this with Outlook Social Connector and LinkedIn for Outlook Connector in Office 2010, which let users access profiles, updates, photos and activities from those social networks.
The data point is timely in the wake of the launch of the new RockMelt Web browser Nov. 7.
Based on the Chromium open-source project that supports Google's Chrome browser, RockMelt surfaces Web pages like its rivals but connects with Facebook Platform.
RockMelt lets users share information on Facebook and Twitter within the context of the browser window.
Users may click on profiles to chat with contacts, share links via Facebook and Twitter, add new feeds and preview search results on Google all from one social palette.
What does this have to do with Gartner's contention that social networks could replace e-mail in many businesses? Over the last several days of testing, eWEEK has found that RockMelt replaced our Outlook inbox functionality in many instances.
Since many of our eWEEK colleagues are also contacts in Facebook, eWEEK was able to shuttle colleagues content right from the browser window.
Specifically, we reporters share a lot of links with our peers. There are several ways to do this.
We can send users embedded links in direct messages via Facebook or Twitter, but this requires opening another browser tab. So we tend to copy and paste the links into Outlook.
Because RockMelt lets users leverage the direct message capabilities of Facebook and Twitter, users who also connect with their business contacts via those social services can eschew Outlook to send content.
This may not be what Gartner had in mind when it said 20 percent of business users will use social networks for messaging instead of e-mail, but it's another example of how the consumerization of Web services can bleed into the enterprise.
Over time and with strong adoption, it's not impossible to think RockMelt will become a trusted browser that businesses may install on corporate computers to let workers communicate.
This is, of course, predicated on getting all business users in a company to join Facebook.