Last week, I was one of the lucky few to have the new Facebook Messaging/email system feature activated on my profile. And before you ask — No, I do not have any invites to give away. It came with only 2 and somehow they got wrangled away from me already. This will be a very slow roll out to Facebook’s 550 million+ users, so plan on waiting.
How do you know it’s activated? First, an alert will show up on the left hand sign of your screen. It will be a box letting you know about this new feature (wish I had grabbed a screenshot). It’s actually fairly easy to tell after the alert is gone though. By going into the Messages area like normal, you can now see at the top that you have a Facebook email address with a green check mark next to it. All systems go so far.
Your email address is your personalized profile url. My profile url is http://www.facebook.com/davepeck, so my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you forget, go back to the Messages screen, and its still up there for you to review.
That, however, is the end of the any thing remotely user-friendly with this system.
I tested out a couple of emails both outbound and inbound and this is what I’ve come up with so far: It’s not a Gmail killer. Not yet anyway.
There’s still quite a bit that needs to be done before this can actually resemble an email system. So, okay, wow I now I have a facebook email address, but if Facebook is going to make an email system shouldn’t it actually have some of the features that an email system has?
Okay, okay, I know…it’s Facebook Messaging. But whatever – they’ve given me an email address, so now I expect that it comes with a few key email features.
What it does have
- A cool @Facebook.com address
- Ability to add attachment
- Ability to sync attachments with Microsoft
Missing Feature #1 – No inbox
No, seriously, there’s no inbox. Incoming emails don’t even get placed in the main Messages folder. You have to first go to Messages, then go to “Other.” Other.
Missing Feature #2 – No threading
What’s threading? It’s keeping all related messages together in the same conversation. In general email, a message and a response typically will stay in the same place somewhere in the mailbox. In general email, you may have a copy in your Sent Mail folder, and then the new response in your Inbox. However, that new response will usually show the sent message being replied to somewhere else in that email (usually below the response). Not so in Facebook Messaging. When an email is sent to a Facebook address, that message will show up in the “Other” box. When a response is created to that initial email, the response is placed in the Messages folder and doesn’t reference the original email at all. What makes things worse is that when the response does show up in Messages, it gets clustered with any actual internal Facebook messages that you may have had with that person even if unrelated in content.
Missing Feature #3 – No contact folder
The key to Facebook Messaging is that its supposed to keep users inside of Facebook, utilizing all of Facebook’s feature. According to Facebook, if you’re emailing with someone, then you should be connected to them because Facebook is all about connecting with the people you know.
This is really apparent in the glaring absence of a contact folder.
With nowhere to store email addresses and contact information for people, the only way to really remember how to get ahold of someone through Facebook (whether sending a Facebook email or traditional message) is to do the legacy process…start typing in a name or email address and letting Facebook automatically populate who you’re connected to already. If you’re not already connected, then it lets you continue to write the email address and send your email. However, it’s not going to let you store that email address. Essentially, Facebook is saying, “Hey Facebook User A, you can send this email to Person B but since they are not on Facebook or using this email address on Facebook, we’re not going to let you store their contact information. Why don’t you connect with them through Facebook instead so that we can continue to help you build and maintain your network?”
Facebook is trying to get the message out that the network can be used for more than just the posting of family pictures or a night out on the town. By adopting all of Facebook’s features, it can be easily used for the development of both a personal and professional network. Giving all users a Facebook email address will help for people to be able to easily figure out where to send emails, but a user can’t just use a Facebook email and expect it to work out of the box. The user needs to actively network with both personal and professional connections, utilize Facebook Lists to separate different demographics and then maximize privacy settings so that user updates are targeted to the correct people. Facebook is very much a system that needs to used as a whole and not piece-meal — by maintaining that this new system is “Facebook Messaging” and not “email,” the company is reinforcing this need.