“You’ve Got (Facebook) Mail”

Facebook again.

For those that didn’t know, Facebook is rolling out a big update to its messaging services. They announced this intention months ago and invited users to sign up for an invitation. I did, and last week finally received mine, about four months later.

So it seems that Facebook is finally ready to start rolling out New Messaging, but what exactly is it, and why is it a big deal?

Facebook is already the world’s biggest social network with over 500 million members, and they recently overtook Google as the website with the most eyeball time. That doesn’t mean it gets more hits than Google, it means people spend more time in Facebook, and the more time you spend there, the bigger safe Mark Zuckerberg needs to have built. So, what is the one thing that Facebook could do to make you stay even longer?


Yes, email. The biggie. Probably the thing you currently spend the second most time doing. Facebook’s new messaging adds several things. With original messaging you could either send another Facebook user a direct message, or if they’re online you could engage in instant chat. The new system builds on that by adding email and text messaging, and by combining all four message types into a single inbox view.

I now have the email address cneal1@facebook.com. I can give that to people who aren’t on Facebook and they can email me, with the message coming in to my Facebook message feed. If a Facebook friend emails me and the address they use is in their Facebook profile, the message will have the familiar look of a Facebook message — profile pic ‘n’ all, but when I reply it will go as email.

It also supports SMS. When sending messages I can elect for it to be copied as a text to the user, and Friends can send a text to a special Facebook number and I get the message in my feed.

It doesn’t support things like POP3 or IMAP of course. What would be the point from their perspective of enabling you to use regular email programs, when the whole point of doing this is to keep you logged into Facebook for longer? I doubt too that it will support regular email features like Forward and Reply to All, but I’m still playing with it so I’ll reserve further judgement.

This is a bold move by Facebook. With the new messaging they present an immediate and serious challenge to other email giants like Google and Microsoft (Hotmail). Invitations — or, to give them their annoying proper name: Invites — to the new system are trickling out and relatively few people are using it so far, so it’s a little early to reach any conclusions about the privacy implications of widespread adoption, but that is bound to become the subject of much discussion in the Tech Press soon.

If you want to get the new messaging in your Facebook account just go to Help, Messaging, New Messaging and you should find a Sign-Up button. Or leave a comment here and I’ll add you to the list — Oh yes, being in the In Crowd I have that power!


About Chris Neal

Personal Technology Consultant. Tailored services and advice for people who want more from their technology.
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