Facebook email: pointless endeavor, spammer's dream, or both?

Facebook email: pointless endeavor, spammer's dream, or both?

Summary: Facebook is making waves with their silent modification of users' contact information to @facebook.com emails. Even worse is how pointless it is, and how spammers might well benefit from it.

Seriously, Facebook?

Seriously, Facebook?

As you may or may not have heard, Facebook made the decision recently to pull the ol' switch-a-roo on many of its users by making their default email address an @facebook.com email address, instead of whatever they had beforehand (see: Fixing the Facebook e-mail foul-up). In this post, I'm going to discuss why Facebook email is a completely pointless endeavor, as well as why it may well be a spammer's dream come true.

Pointless Endeavor

First of all, you may be wondering how you send/receive emails from/to your Facebook email address. Currently, you can only receive emails to your Facebook email address. Emails sent to your Facebook email will show up in either your "Messages" folder or your "Other" folder. "What "Other" folder," you might be asking. It's this one; the one that no one else knows about, either.

After a bit of testing comprised of having emails sent to my Facebook email from various email aliases, here are some things I've discovered about which folder an email goes to:

1: If a person you're "friends" with sends you an email from the email address they used to sign up their Facebook account with, that email will show up either in your "Messages" folder or in a chat window, if you have it open for that person.

2: Emails from any email address that's not tied to the account of individuals you're "friends" with, will go to your "Other" folder.

So, what's the use for a Facebook email alias? Easy! It's... it's... *crickets chirping*

I have absolutely no idea, because it is REALLY useless as-is. Here's a not-very-extensively-thought-out theory for you, though:

Facebook's email platform will one day be something DRASTICALLY different than this shell of a platform we're all suddenly becoming aware of. And why are we becoming aware of it? Because Facebook made this crazy change that has EVERYONE talking about it and eating it up. Now, we're all aware of it. Maybe that's all Facebook wants for now.

A Spammer's Dream

Let's take a minute to assume a world that the millionaires and billionaires at Facebook seem to be envisioning up there in the clouds: a world where people pull up their email clients and send an email to a Facebook friend's alias that they somehow magically know. Also, this world is comprised of Facebook users who obsessively check both their "Messages" folder and "Other" folder, because both of them could very likely contain legitimate messages.

For instance, let's say I'm at work, and they have a firewall policy installed which blocks my usage of not only Facebook, but also the email provider that I use, which houses the email address my Facebook account is signed up with. Now, I want to send an email to a friend on Facebook, but I'll have to do it from my work email alias! This email will then go to that person's "Other" folder -- the very same folder that emails from Nigerian scammers who sign their emails "Barrister Such-n-such" go to.

(See how ridiculous this is already getting? Another +1 for "pointless endeavor.")

This is where the "Other" folder becomes a spammer's dream. Since a person's Facebook email address is simply their user name with @facebook.com appended to it, I can't express the simplicity of scraping the Web for Facebook user names, populating them into a list, appending @facebook.com to them, then blasting them with spam messages.

All of a sudden, the spammers are getting their garbage in front of eyeballs, and who knows how many clicks they might get from such a platform. I mean, maybe it's an infinitesimally small number, but the point here is that Facebook has now given people a reason to have to dig into the equivalent of their "Spam" inbox. Terrible.


Basically, I fail to see any use whatsoever for Facebook's poor excuse of an email platform. And the fact that they decided to take it upon themselves, for whatever reason, to modify a majority of their users' contact information is ridiculous on a number of levels. Now, we're all left to somehow read about this and fix it ourselves -- and that's those of us who will ever know about this in the first place! Think of all the people who will never hear about this, and amongst them, those who have their email addresses visible for a reason and never utilize Facebook messaging.

Usually, I just let Facebook's silent changes roll off my back with little more than the sharing of an article that shows others how to rollback if they'd like, but this time, Facebook has seriously irritated me. I'm having to dig pretty deep to discover any good reasons for this change of theirs, and as soon as I come up with one, it's immediately crushed by a logical "wtf!?" from my brain.

Please get your garbage change out of our faces, Facebook, and -- for once -- allow us to opt-in... that is, if you can figure out how to actually inform all of your users of a change in the first place. Thanks.

What do you think about Facebook's move to modify all of their users' contact information to show an @facebook.com email address? Let us know in the comments below!

Topics: Social Enterprise, Browser, Collaboration, Google

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


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Does anybody even use Facebook email?

    Does anybody even use Facebook email?
  • It's a mess

    I occasionally visit Facebook for family news and not very often since updates just appear automatically on my Windows Phone.

    However, recently I decided to update some graphics on my page and I finally had to deal with what Facebook calls a UI. I've never seen such a mess and I'm shocked that users have put up with this for so long. I'm sure you can probably adapt to it with lots of use and cursing, but I can't see why people are complaining about the well designed Metro when they still have to put up with FB.

    Forget the email, hire some UI designers instead.
  • Facebook auto-updates your mobile phone's address book

    The real story is that this update is automatically pushed to the address books on your mobile phone if you have the Facebook app installed. On my Android phone, all contacts had their primary email replaced with the new Facebook email without my knowledge. So when I now share something or send a message or email, the contact auto-complete will default to the Facebook email addresses. This will create much more usage than the profile page update. And to me, this is a major intrusion of privacy and completely uncalled for.
    • Whew.

      I've the Facebook app on my phone, but I don't have it tied to any of my contacts, thank goodness. I would've been ultra-miffed!!! Sorry to hear this happened to you. What an incredibly lame move by Facebook.
      • interesting

        Hmm that's weird. It happened to my friend too. The friends in the phone's address book who have facebook have had their primary email changed. Maybe your friends were so quick to change their facebook primary email back to their own?
        jan bLinQue
      • it is to laugh

        Incredibly lame? Facebook?
        Don't act so surprised.
        A bunch of little narsisists decide the whole world needs to know what they had for dinner. Do we really care if their "home" decides to take over their email?
        I don't have time to care.
      • it is to laugh

        Incredibly lame? Facebook?
        Don't act so surprised.
        A bunch of little narsisists decide the whole world needs to know what they had for dinner. Do we really care if their "home" decides to take over their email?
        I don't have time to care.
  • Can't delete them

    To test how this works, I sent a message to myself @facebook.com and sure enough it showed up on Facebook. Having seen it I went to delete it, and found that there is apparently no way to do so. It is there forever, and ever, and ever.