"Gmail Killer" From Facebook on Its Way?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks in the Galileo Auditorium on Microsoft?s Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu) CBS

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks in the Galileo Auditorium on Microsoft?s Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
No longer content to just dominate the social media landscape, Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, are expected to announce plans to launch a new free email system. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo
Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, and Gmail beware: Facebook is coming for you.

After thoroughly vanquishing its foes in social media, Facebook now turns its attention to virtual communications today, when it is expected to announce plans for a new free email system.

Dubbed "Project Titan," the TechCrunch website reports that Facebook staffers have been referring to it as "the Gmail killer," in reference to Google's popular free email system.

"There is a huge opportunity for these guys to fundamentally change the nature of e-mail," Silicon Valley-based research analyst Matt Cain told the San Jose Mercury News.

Imagine, Cain said, a Facebook system that could prioritize mail from any external source based on the closeness of your relationship to the sender, or that allows you to easily flip a one-to-one e-mail exchange into a conversation with a group of friends.

Facebook already offers a way to communicate with other Facebook members in an email-like system, but it is closed to non-Facebook users. The Mercury News cites data saying that 90 percent of U.S. adults check e-mail regularly, but only 59 percent use social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter.

Even though Hotmail (Microsoft's email system) and Yahoo Mail still hold a clear lead internationally on email subscribers, with 362 million and 273 million users respectively compared to Gmail's 193 million users, reports the Mercury News, it is telling that Facebook staffers have been referring to their new system as the Google email killer.

Facebook and Google have been engaged in conflicts over user data and information for a while now.

Unhappy with Facebook's unwillingness to let people export their contacts from Facebook into a service like Gmail, Google last week blocked Facebook from allowing users to import their Google contacts directly into the social network.

This has led to an unprecedented war of words between the two internet giants, and Facebook's announcement that it is trying to take down Gmail will surely just add to the rivalry. The good news is that, when businesses fight, it's usually the consumer who wins.

  • Joshua Norman

    Joshua Norman is a Senior Editor at CBSNews.com.

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