Around the United States today, a few thousand lucky people are trying out Facebook’s newest step in its quest to be the site you never leave. It’s roll-out day for the company’s new @facebook.com all-inclusive messaging system. So what does Mark Zuckerberg have in store for us?
All Together Now
The main message from Zuckerberg and director of engineering Andrew Bosworth: Old-school email, with formalities like bcc’s and subject lines, is out. An informal mish-mash of communication is in.
Facebook’s messaging system is different than any other email service (namely, Gmail) in that it doesn’t just collect email. Texts and SMS, IMs and chat, emails and Facebook messages–“they don’t work that well together,” explained Bosworth. Now, they’ll all be assembled into one thread, blurring the lines of what an “inbox” is. So, rather than having your texts stored on your phone, and your IMs stored on iChat, and your emails stored on Yahoo, Facebook will compile your messages into one place. [Fast Company]
There Is No Escape
Buried in the deep recesses of your email account, you probably have messages dating back so far that reading them makes you wonder who you used to be. With Facebook’s integrated messaging system, your texts, emails, Facebook messages, and more would all be saved.
Like other e-mail systems, the Facebook messaging system will now save a conversation history, which executives said could maintain a sort of oral history. “Imagine you have the entire history of your conversation from ‘Hey, nice to meet you, want to get coffee?’ to ‘Hey, can you pick up the kids.’ Five years from now, a user can have this full rich history with your friends and the users around you,” Zuckerberg said. [PC Magazine]
Like many of Zuckerberg’s statements, this one can be read as either sentimental or terrifying depending on your comfort level with Facebook.
What about one of email’s main advantages—the ability to attach large files?
You will be able to exchange picture and video attachments. Facebook says it doesn’t have a set limit on file size constraints, but will have systems in place to prevent abuse. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office will also be part of the new Facebook messaging system. Microsoft says that in coming months you’ll be able to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint attachments with Office Web Apps directly in Facebook. [USA Today]
One more thing that’s different about Facebook’s messaging system: Not all messages in your inbox are created equal. While standard email providers sort your spam from your regular messages to the best of their ability, Facebook uses what it already knows about your social network to prioritize what messages you see.
As for inbox filtering, Facebook will show messages from a user’s Facebook friends on the main page, while messages from people not in your social network are shuffled into another mailbox. The system will get smarter over time, so that even people you aren’t friends with on Facebook, but communicate often with, will show up in the stream. [Wired.com]
Your Information Is Facebook’s Information
No matter what your privacy settings, no information you put up on Facebook is truly “private”—especially from Facebook itself. That goes for the content of your messages in @facebook, too, which will help paint an even clearer picture of you for advertisers.
“The space on the right (for ads), we will try to make as relevant as possible,” Zuckerberg said, when asked what the company will do with the content of e-mail and instant messages that are part of the system. “If you put in (your e-mail) that you like Green Day, we will put in an ad for concert tickets.” [Washington Post]
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Image: flickr / benstein