Not 24 hours ago, I was feeling pretty bullish about Facebook Messages, the company's just-announced attempt to rethink the way people communicate over the Internet - including e-mail.
Being one of the first to have my Facebook account enabled for the new service, I spent a good part of yesterday messing around with it - asking friends to "email" me at my new facebook.com address and, more specifically, to email me from a variety of accounts, including those not registered on Facebook.
Here are some of my first impressions, with some analysis posted below.
- Bravo to Facebook for making everything opt-in, including the @facebook.com email.
- Thanks also for making all of the elements of the registration very easy to turn off and on.
- A message appeared in my inbox while I had my chat feature turned off. I turned on my chat feature and saw that the message was actually a chat thread. I wasn't sure exactly where to respond - in the messages window or the pop-up chat window.
- I still don't quite understand how the whole integration with SMS works. I received text messages when someone commented on a status update - not just that the person had commented but the text of the comment itself. A comment on a status update doesn't count as a "message" and shouldn't be arriving in my SMS inbox. Hmmm. Suddenly, I wondered how bogged down my SMS inbox on my phone would become down the road. Later, an actual email showed up via SMS while a chat that first appeared as a message never did. Confused? Me too.
- Duplication sucks - and that's exactly what I have on my phone and on my page. Who needs or wants the same message twice?
- The conversation archive is inconsistent about how much of the archived conversation it shows. Consider the example in the image. My buddy Mike was responding to a message I'd sent him at some point in time - but all I could see in the message archive was one of his responses. Without the context, how would I know what we were talking about?
- The messages system recognized the email addresses of people who sent test emails to my new @facebook.com account. If their e-mail addresses are linked to their Facebook accounts, then the email pops into the Messages folder. If their email addresses are not linked to their Facebook accounts - a work account, perhaps - then it shows up in the Others folder.
- Did I miss the button to forward the email? It's hidden under the Actions dropdown and then makes you select each message - not threads - to forward. I'm still not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
- I have this overwhelming urge to go in and clean out my messages. I had no idea I'd had that many message exchanges on Facebook. And I had no idea that I had unread messages dating back to August 2009.
- No, they have not yet activated my invitations so, no, I cannot send you one. Sorry.
Overall, I think I need more time to use Facebook Messages before I reach any conclusion. I can say this much: at this point, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was exactly right when he said that this is not a GMail killer. For now, it's confusing and that's intensified by the integration of SMS.
At one point during Monday's press event, Zuckerberg said that the company wasn't trying to add to traditional email but instead was trying to trim it down, to take away features. It doesn't feel like Facebook Messages has been helpful at reducing clutter. So far, it's done just the opposite.
Still, I'm willing to give it some time, recognizing that 1) there's still a learning curve and 2) some parts could change once Zuckerberg and team start reading through some of the feedback.
Hope this one helps.
- Facebook cannot guarantee privacy: Why is the 'social inbox' so different?
- Gallery: Facebook takes messaging to a new level
- Email mania: Why does everyone want to be your inbox?