So is email dead? That’s the claim made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with his recent announcement that Facebook is going to be offering an email service. His fairly obscure announcement suggests that although Facebook users will be provided with a ‘username@facebook.com’ email address, it won’t be email as such. “It’s email, Jim, but not as we know it” would appear to be the idea.

Picture of letterZuckerberg suggests that email is too slow, and too cumbersome, with the new Facebook messaging system providing people with a more dynamic, fast and efficient system. He seems to be suggesting that although the new email system can be used in much the same way as normal email, it will offer a range of advantages by being plugged in directly to the Facebook messaging system.

This means that communications sent to a user’s facebook.com address will appear on their screen immediately in real time, with no need to download, connect to the server, or run mail through endless spam filters.

That’s something else Zuckerberg is suggesting – an end to spam. Personally I doubt this. There have been endless claims by businesses that spam is dead, the last being Google when they introduced their Gmail service. But with over 500 million active users there’s no doubt that when Facebook does implement their new email messaging system they will potentially become the number one email provider in the world, outstripping Gmail, and outstripping both Microsoft and Yahoo in the process.

With 362 million users, Microsoft’s Hotmail service – one of the oldest email services on the web, will be pushed rapidly into second place, with Yahoo! Becoming third with 273 million users. Google’s Gmail will be relegated to fourth position with their 193 million users, and Google may well be worried by Facebook’s announcement.

But what will the new system mean for most of us? Specifically, is email dead? Will we work differently in future? I doubt it. I think that email is a system that’s too established for one company, even one as huge as Facebook, to tear up and reinvent. But there’s also little doubt that the way we communicate with each other has been changing recently with more of us using iPhones, iPads and other gadgets to message people on the go.

But a messaging system that combines the benefits of email with the benefits of an instant messaging system, and which is already plugged in to the biggest networking site on the planet is almost certainly going to add something to the equation.

Will be interesting to see what happens!