Facebook Unveils Its Messaging System—Just Don't Call It Email

By Andrew Moseman | November 15, 2010 3:58 pm

facebook-webAround 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]

Related Content:
80beats: The Facebook Movie Comes Out Today. Is It Fact or Fiction?
80beats: Facebook Adds Location Feature, Subtracts Privacy (Again)
80beats: Facebook CEO: People Don’t Really Want Privacy Nowadays, Anyway
80beats: Google Buzz: The Search Giant’s Attempt at a Facebook-Killer

Image: flickr / benstein

  • http://drvitelli.typepad.com Romeo Vitelli

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Is that you, Zuckerbot?

  • Sunnshyne

    There is NO way I am giving these privacy thieves any more of my info. They change their page all the time and don’t even give you fair warning and they f**k with the privacy settings on everything to the point that you cannot play games without the whole f**king work knowing all your info…NOW they want to take over my email…NO WAY IN HELL!!

  • imnobody

    One day I tried to log in in my Facebook account and they told me that my account was suspended because me having violated the terms and conditions of the service (WHICH WAS NOT TRUE: I have barely used Facebook the days before and I had done nothing forbidden in their policy).

    I was redirected to a page. I submitted my complain and, after two seconds, I received an automatic email telling something along the lines of “You have violated our terms and conditions and your account has been suspended. This decision is final and there’s nothing you can do”.

    I searched an email address to report these cases. There is one. I sent an email. They never repplied.

    I lost contact with new friends, lots of pictures, etc. I tried not to open other Facebook account but my friends kept telling me about the lovely pictures of my 3-years-old niece that my sister was posting regularly in Facebook (I am an expat)

    So I opened other account and I do nothing with it for fear of being banned. Every time I try to open my account from another country (I travel a lot), I have to pass a cumbersome process of verification of my identity (that consists in identifying my Facebook friends in the pictures they have tagged: try this with a picture of a cute teddy bear where everybody is tagged).

    Am I supposed to trust these guys about my email? No way. I have had no problem with Gmail for years. You should not trust Facebook it either. My case is an example that Facebook considers the user like crap.

  • http://alexfiles.com Alex

    I don’t see why what I currently do – forward everything to Gmail and label it as flexibly as I want – isn’t just as good. This allows me to:
    * Track things as far back as 15 Nov. 2004, when I started Gmail. I certainly don’t mind not having Facebook posts captured in it – there’s too much spam there already – but I do have notifications in Gmail, with content, from a variety of sites I use to communicate with friends, colleagues, etc.
    * Gmail also prioritizes email
    * Gmail targets advertising according to my content, which I don’t thrill to – but it’s certainly not original to Facebook.
    * Gmail allows me to save extremely large files.
    * Integrated Google docs lets me view a broad variety of files.

    It seems none of this is new, and that using Facebook, I’d be starting from scratch re: richness of content, content taxonomy, etc. Why on earth would I switch?


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar