Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

Summary: Facebook today launched a new messaging system that rethinks how people communicate and tries to take communications beyond everyday e-mail.

SHARE:

Facebook, with more than 500 million users communicating with each other daily, is looking to reinvent communications - and not just email.

The company today is introducing a three-pronged system that strives to not necessarily change the way we communicate but to make it more efficient, more personal and definitely simpler. And, of course, Facebook wants to make it seamless across the platforms and devices we're already using.

At a press event in San Francisco this morning, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressed that this is not "Facebook email," which was the general belief in the guessing game that surrounded this event. Yes, everyone will soon have the option of securing an @facebook.com email address if they so choose - but it's more than that. He said:

We're using a mechansism that's much simpler, like SMS or IM. We spent a lot of time building a handful of products that fit what we think of as a modern day messaging system.

At the heart of it all is the "social inbox," a place where messages - again,not just email - are housed and filtered. Because Facebook already knows who your "friends" are, it can filter messages that it believes to be important to you. Everything else - not necessarily junk but maybe a newsletter or a bank statement or something from a family member who's not on Facebook - goes into an "other" folder.

And if one of those messages from a friend would be better for the "other" folder or a message from someone who landed in "other" should be in the social inbox, the user can move them back and forth, adjusting how those emails are handled in the future.

In terms of the seamless integration that Zuckerberg and team talked about, the idea is that users should be able to have an IM appear as an SMS or an SMS appear as an email, giving people a way to use the communication tool they prefer without worrying about how the recipient will see it or respond to it.

That can be pretty powerful.

The company said the rollout to users will be a slow one - over the next couple of months - and initially will be spread via invitations. The idea is to let people get used to it and offer some feedback to Facebook about it.

Overall, I like what Facebook is doing here. For some time now, I've been squawking about how cumbersome and inefficient email continues to be - despite some of the breakthroughs that companies like Yahoo and Google have been pitching lately, such as Gmail's Priority Inbox.

The jury will be out for a bit on whether Facebook's effort is a winning solution or whether people will actually start using it. Zuckerberg stressed that no one at Facebook is expecting users to dump their Gmail or Yahoo mail accounts any time soon.

But the idea that some users, including the younger users who already prefer SMS and Facebook over traditional email systems, will shift the winds for future generations is something that makes me hopeful - hopeful that the clunky e-mail systems of today will someday be history. New Messages

Topics: Mobility, Collaboration, Hardware, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

52 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

    Boy I can't tell you how much I want my bank statements coming in to a Facebook account.
    txscott
    • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

      @shollomon
      just what I was thinking...no thanks
      CobaltDragon
    • No kidding.

      @shollomon
      LOL. Exactly what I was thinking. Yeah, I'll be glad to have my financial documents going to FB. Maybe when donkeys fly.
      shawkins
      • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

        @shawkins - that happened in Shrek already. Old News! Mate! LOL
        andrej770
  • Why do we need another message protocol?

    Google's jabber-based messaging Talk is fine.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
    • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

      @Dietrich T. Schmitz

      This isn't another protocol - it's trying to merge several "protocols" into one.
      CobraA1
  • Mark Zuckerberg's face reminds me of a

    fish, not any particular species.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • Will it be completely open like email is?

    If not, then keep it.
    x I'm tc
  • when is Mark going to start to talk about how FB is going to make money?

    @shollomon - LOL!!!!
    sganny
  • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

    Can't wait for Google to have a hissy fit over this one too, maybe they'll try to sue Facebook for having email and messaging and not including Google in on it.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

      @Loverock Davidson <br>I'm guessing you consider Hotmail to be the best email service to ever walk this earth, right?
      ZackCDLVI
      • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

        Someone said something about ?donkeys flying?, haven?t they?
        So here we are, there came one who posts messages...
        scoobbs@...
    • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

      @Loverock Davidson I don't think Google will have to do anything. Google is all ready facing legal challenges and govt. inquiries over the same things Facebook is now unleashing. I think FB will just be the next in line for an investigation.
      mlbslugger
  • A unified inbox? Yawn.

    Oooo, a unified inbox! I haven't seen one of those since about 1996 or so. How revolutionary!

    What they should have done was to use their identity play to fix email, meaning make spam obsolete. Maybe that's the long term vision, but they didn't say anything like that.
    spambox@...
    • Actually... it is!

      @spambox@... If you watch Facebook's video on the subject, they broach the subject of spam which they want to eliminate.

      I still don't like the idea of the data-black-hole Facebook collecting emails....
      Shepps
  • Ahhhhhhh.....Nope

    There is no way I want yet one more place to check for e mail and I am certainly NOT going to trust ANY web based social network to collect my normal e mail.
    Baer
    • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

      @Baer, that's the rub... I'm weary enough of Google popping my email for me, buggered if I'd let facebook do it.
      pitdroidtech
  • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

    I love Zach Whittaker's Enron-parody logo.
    cpabob94
  • RE: Facebook's new messaging system: More than just email?

    Facebook has already pretty much run me off with privacy issues and they think I will use this to communicate via e mail. Never say never, but I doubt I will.
    entropy_z
  • Hmmm

    So, email filtering? Wow... Like that's not something my email programs can do! Holy crap FB is full of genius's or something.

    No, thanks. I don't even tell FB real information. My friends know what name to look for me under. Everything else they don't need to know. Everyone is so uptight about privacy, but they will put up their entire worlds on FB and Twitter! I've found out where people I hate lived just because they posted a picture of their car and I reverse searched their license plates.

    Information is not hard to get but if you are interested in privacy... Stop telling the world what you are doing every moment of the day. Stop giving websites unlimited access to your private lives. Don't let social networks control your lives.

    Myspace was about this big before it fell from grace. There will be another site that will kill FB. Everyone will disagree but it is going to happen... Just wait and see.
    Toque_3D