There's a big announcement coming from Facebook on Monday. It is rumored that Facebook will unveil a new email and messaging platform, although the announcement could also or alternatively relate to mobile chat or Skype. If Facebook tackles email (which seems inevitable, whether next week or next year), it promises to change the way consumers think about digital communications.
If that sounds like a big statement about a company that's already had a profound effect on consumer communications, consider for a moment how the Web changed information gathering. When people needed information prior to the advent of the Internet, the operative question wasn't just "What do I need?" but "How do I get it?" The "how" affected everything: If I turn to the encyclopedia on my shelf, I might get old information. If I turn to a single source, I might get biased information. If I need to get into my car and drive to a library, it will take a great deal of time and effort. And if the "how" was sufficiently difficult or murky, I might simply give up.
The Internet changed that — it provided a single "how." The browser became our window to whatever data we needed. Of course, we still needed to find that data on the World Wide Web (which is where Google and other Web 1.0 solutions stepped in), but once "how" turned to "what," it changed everything. Consumers who saw the benefit of instantaneous access overcame the relatively extreme challenges of early Internet adoption (such as slow speeds, expensive PCs and costly ISPs) and adopted the Web in huge numbers in a relatively short period of time. That's the power of eliminating "how."