CNET First Look
Facebook Messages: Email killer?Facebook has relaunched its private messaging system with a link to the e-mail universe: All Facebook users will get an @facebook.com address. But Messages isn't really a competitor to standard e-mail. Rafe Needleman explains why.
-Hi, this is Rafe Needleman with the first look at Facebook messages. This is the revamp of the private person-to-person messaging system within Facebook. There are some big improvements. Facebook messages now keeps all your conversations with your contacts together no matter how they communicate. Everything you say to people in messages, be it in an e-mail message, a chat, or an SMS 'cause files are one long conversation thread. In messages, to reach someone, all you have to know is their name. Facebook will find users wherever they want to be found, on the Facebook website, in chat, or in their mobile phone depending on their preferences. It means you don't have to think about how your message gets from you to them. But it doesn't pose some limitations. For example, there are no subject lines in Facebook messages. Essentially, the subject is now the relationship. But as Facebook's goal was to combine SMS, chat, and mail-like messaging together, there really was no other way to blend the communication modes. Facebook is clear to say that messages isn't e-mail in fact, but there's a little confusion on this since Facebook's messaging system now for the first time actually gives everyone on the network an optional e-mail address. When the system is rolled out, everyone will have a Facebook.com address. You'll be able to receive messages from the outside world to that address and send from Facebook to other systems as well. One of the other big features of Facebook messages is that by default, the only messages you see in your inbox will be those from your network of friends. Other messages like invitations, alerts, and spam show up in the other inbox and you have to promote people to have messages from them appear in your main inbox. Likewise, you can demote people so their communications don't clutter your main inbox if you prefer. Facebook messages is a necessary and useful upgrade of the platforms current, very limited private messaging system. Facebook says it's not e-mail and that's accurate. The product is missing standard features in e-mail. There's no concept of a multiperson conversation for example. Facebook says the groups feature for that. And you can't even forward a message to someone else at least not yet in this current version. It won't replace e-mail for those of us comfortable with that platform. But for younger users you communicate primarily in SMS and in Facebook, it's a welcome upgrade. Facebook says messages will roll out slowly over the next few months and users will get an alert when they logged in to their account when it's enabled for it. Users who have messages can also invite a very limited number of their friends. For CNET, I'm Rafe Needleman.