Earlier today Facebook made the official announcement about their new email and social messaging functionality. The goal of the service is to create a way for Facebook users to easily communicate with the people that they care most about. Who seems to be the intended target audience for the Facebook messaging system? Young people who primarily communicate by text message. If you prefer to text and tweet and send other instant communications then the new Facebook messaging system could be for you!
Facebook is trying to create a service that works like a web based text messaging interface. The system will expand the existing Facebook messages feature enabling your Facebook account to communicate quickly with anyone on the internet. It will not matter if your contacts use Facebook because the Facebook system uses existing internet protocols for communicating with your contacts. It will be up to you to specify if a contact prefers to communicate with email, instant messaging, some other messaging system. In this way the system makes sense. You do not need to disrupt how your contacts prefer to send and receive messages by forcing them to use Facebook when they want to communicate with you.
It is unclear if you can group multiple contact preferences for a person into a single conversation. If someone has my Gmail, IM, and facebook email addresses will messages from all three of those sources be grouped into a single conversation on Facebook?
Anyone with a Facebook account will have the option to get a new email account @Facebook.com. Existing facebook users will not be required to get a facebook email account. The employees at Facebook are changing domains and will be using @fb.com email accounts going forward.
The facebook messaging system will group your messages into conversations and sort them based on contact name. Each person that you communicate with will have a single ongoing conversation with you. Every message to/from this person becomes a part of the conversation. The concept of threading conversations by subject will be lost in this system. All messages, regardless of the subject, will be grouped into a single ongoing conversation per contact.
It does not seem like there will be a mechanism for filtering messages based on content. Facebook assumes that if you are friends with someone then you want the messages from them. If you have a contact that sends junk forwards 95% of the time and sends legitimate email the other 5% it's just something that you are going to have to deal with if you choose to use the Facebook messaging system to communicate with that person.
Facebook conversations will be grouped into one of three main folder categories. The categories are :
- Main - The messages that you want to see instantly
- Other - The messages that Facebook isn't sure if you want to see
- Junk - Spam and other messages that you do not want to see
The three folder setup is designed to be a simple reputation system. The problem is that Facebook does not really know who you want to receive messages from. A lot of training will be involved just like any other email or spam filtering system. Will messages from your Zynga game "friends" go to your Main folder? Will the holiday email from your mom end up in the Other or Junk folder? Facebook messaging users will need to train a "whitelist email from my important contacts, and block the rest" system for receiving messages from their "friends". The system is not meant to group contacts into groups of people that matter and don't matter. Facebook assumes that everyone within your social network is someone that matters to you.
My guess is that users will need to spend time manually checking the Other
folder daily for messages that have been miscategorized. Also, what happens if you receive a spam From: a contact? Facebook is new to filtering incoming email. I suspect that the system will do a poor job of filtering spam that is From: your friends email addresses whether it's sent by a spammer or a spammer that actually got into your friend email account.
When asked the employees of Facebook did not have a clear answer for the amount of storage that will be available to users of the messaging system. As long as you are not abusing the system to send spam you will be allowed to store as many conversations as needed? Unlimited? Some big number? Hoe many incoming and outgoing messages per day?
What happens to conversation To: two or more of your contacts?
What happens if you receive email from mailing lists From: the senders instead of the list addresses?
Facebook will need to store the email addresses for all of your contacts so that they can properly group messages from them together in the same conversation.
Facebook will allow members to forward individual messages from a conversation.
If you are someone who prefers to communicate instantly with contacts then facebook messaging could be a nice service for you, but if you are someone who prefers email over text and instant messaging then I suspect that Facebook Messaging will become another one of your throwaway email accounts.