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Facebook unveils new Messages unifying your email, IM and texts

Facebook has unveiled a new messaging system that pulls together email, IM and text messages. Did somebody say Google Wave?

Facebook has revealed a new Messages system that pulls together email, IM and text messages. At a press conference in Palo Alto, streamed live on Facebook Live, the social network's chief Mark Zuckerberg described communicating in a long seamless conversation of all types of messages, with a Social Inbox filtering our friends.

Zuckerberg reckons a modern messaging system should be simple, informal, immediate and personal, with seamless integration across the different ways you access technology. El Zuck was at pains to point out that it's not email -- although it does handle email, and Facebook users will get an email address ending in @facebook.com if they want one. The Zuckster reckons email is "too slow" because thinking of a subject line requires so much effort.

Your inbox unified

The seamless integration across different devices and methods of communication is based on Facebook Chat. Messages appear in the Facebook messaging system regardless of how they were sent to you. You reply quickly and informally, just as you would in Chat -- and the message is sent in the form the recipient wants to receive it, whether it's an email or a notification on their iPhone. The system supports attachments, as well as Jabber/XMPP, with IMAP in the pipeline.

The upshot of pulling in all these different types of messages is that you end up with one long conversation history for each friend, instead of seeing your messages divided across your computer, your email and your phone. That should do away with losing messages, or not being able to access a message because you're away from your computer.

The Social Inbox is based on the white list of your friends, so you know that messages received are from people you know. There's a second level of email that isn't from friends, such as bills and newsletters, followed by a junk-mail filter.

Facebook vs Google

In the run-up to the announcement, there were torrents of speculation that Facebook was set to unleash a 'Gmail killer'. As it turns out, this is more of a Google Wave killer -- except Wave is already dead. Wave was ahead of its time and never found enough users, but the similar new Facebook unified inbox has the small advantage of 500 million users already signed up. While we're on the subject, the Social Inbox feature sounds a lot like Gmail Priority Inbox -- but once again, Facebook's weight of numbers is the key, as your friends list takes the guesswork out of filtering.

All Facebook, all the time

Facebook has been going to town with new announcements lately, launching services like Facebook Places and facing down controversy by tweaking privacy settings and adding a ClickCEOP child-protection app. Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg has gone face to face with our new prime minister "Call me Dave" Cameron and even done boffo business at the box office, kind of. Still no sign of the Facebook phone, though.

The new Facebook Messages will show up in your profile some time over the next few months. Ultimately, it seems Facebook's goal really is world domination. With the new unified inbox and the Like button spreading across the Web, we're using Facebook even when we're not using Facebook. What do you think of Facebook's announcement? Let us know in the comments or on our official Facebook page.