Facebook messaging to make email a thing of the past?

Darren Allan

November 16, 2010

Yesterday evening our time, Facebook unveiled its new messaging service, about which there has been much speculation over the past week.

Most of that speculation had pointed to Facebook launching some manner of webmail service to rival the likes of Gmail and Hotmail, but this wasn’t what Mark Zuckerberg had up his sleeve.

In actual fact, it was a revamped messaging system within Facebook which the social networking site hopes will eventually render email obsolete. The concept is an overarching messaging system which reaches all devices in all formats, and keeps all your electronic communication together under one roof.

So whether you want to reach a friend by SMS text, instant message or email doesn’t matter. You simply select their name and send a real-time message, which will reach them on whatever device they’re on, without you having to be concerned about whether you should text them, instant message them, contact them on Facebook chat and so on.

Referring to phone numbers and email addresses, Facebook wrote on its blog page: “Relatively soon, we’ll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly. We aren’t there yet, but the changes today are a small first step.”

Zuckerberg called email too formal and sluggish, what with having to stop to consider details such as the subject header, or CC fields.

However, users of the social networking site will get an @facebook.com email address, so they can be contacted by folks who haven’t signed up to Facebook. Sending an email via Facebook won’t ever require subject fields and suchlike to be filled in, it will be a simple matter of clicking who you want to contact, typing your message and hitting return.

Facebook states about its new messaging system: “We modelled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”

The new Facebook inbox will also prioritise messages, so that it will only contain conversations with your friends, and friends of friends. Other messages will be diverted into an “other” folder.

That means if someone not on Facebook emails you, it will initially go here, but you can manually move it into the inbox, and all future messages from that source will arrive in the main inbox.

So when is all this coming to your Facebook account? Invites are rolling out over the next few months, so it sounds like it will be a fairly slow and steady process.


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