So after all the hype it seems that the Facebook email system (a GMail killer, to many media types’ eyes, despite having never seen it until it was unveiled today) is actually just a way to use Facebook’s proprietary chat system outside of the website.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, it’s definitely and defiantly “not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key.” So it’s Facebook chat, coupled with messaging.
However the company will be giving invited users @facebook.com email addresses. Where The Daily Mail will get apoplectic is that this means that you can feasibly email anyone who has a Facebook profile, using (presumably) their already-existing username, derived from their URL. That means, in tabloid speak, KILLER RAPIST PAEDOPHILES ABLE TO CONTACT OUR YOUNG CHILDREN.
In all seriousness, though, there is a question to be asked here – especially given the recent history of Facebook and privacy. Much has been made of the fact that you can change your privacy settings to make sure that strangers (or indeed Facebook friends) can’t see certain aspects of your profile: be it pictures, personal information or your contact details. If anyone is now able to send a message to your inbox without having to be your Facebook friend – something many would argue is much more personal and invasive than being able to post on your wall – then that opens up a can of worms that the site tried valiantly to seal back up on the back of the furore before about privacy.
That then will probably be the headlines tomorrow. Despite all the hype, I’m massively disappointed: no-one (and I mean no-one) likes Facebook chat; the separate private message system that exists already is fairly inadequate and this just seems like a combination of the two rather pitiful pre-existing things, with a nice topping of privacy concerns to make it even less palatable.
Most staggering about the conference are the data that show more than four billion messages are sent through Facebook each and every day. That’s an awful lot of people tied in to a fairly rubbish system simply because of the other, better aspects of the site.
Do you want to use the new system? Got a @facebook.com email address? Comment (and gloat) below.