Posted by Renee Schmidt

Back in 2004 when Google went public, Microsoft felt the sting of a younger competitor. Now Google itself is feeling that sting, facing competition from Facebook. Among the social network’s efforts to lure users from Google, Facebook is now pushing it’s email platform (a major play against Gmail, if you ask me). I noticed today, a quietly rolled out Facebook feature which lets Facebook users forward their Facebook messages. You can forward those messages to other Facebook users, but more importantly, you can forward them to any outside email address. And who is the return address? Your default email, of course. Here’s what I mean:

Once I pressed the “Forward” button:

In my message list, it appears as an outgoing message (looking a lot like email):

Here’s what this email looked like when I forwarded it to myself.

While many users say they are not ready to replace their existing email with Facebook’s email, the truth is most people spend a considerable amount of their online time on social networking, where they play games, audio/video chat or read their news feeds. So is adding email to the mix that far of a stretch?

When Facebook changed the email addresses of its users to default address, it lit up a media frenzy. Pundits wondered if this was Facebook’s play to take over email, which is statistically in decline in terms of usage over the last few years. With over 900 million users, Facebook already has the user base – all it has to do is to provide them with a full-featured email and a good reason to use it. Adding a forwarding feature to an already existing email address, will certainly accomplish that.

People say they’d like to keep email separate from social networking, especially due to privacy issues, but I’d be curious to know how many users noticed and reverted the email address that Facebook recently imposed on its users.  If a user didn’t revert the change, it’s likely they’ll be receiving messages through Facebook’s email system at some point. For example, I personally use Facebook to locate someone’s email address on the fly, as I am sure most people do. If it’s their Facebook email I find, I’m likely to shoot them an email there. So the real question is, will they reply and keep the email thread moving through Facebook’s platform? Only time will tell. In the meantime, the forwarding feature is nifty for moving a Facebook conversation to a Gmail one.