Facebook to Assimilate Email
Fragmented communication is history, hopes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Soon the social network's users won't have to think about whether to contact their friends and family through Facebook, text, email or other digital channels, according to his announcement at 10 a.m. Pacific today in San Francisco. Communication through all of those channels will be facilitated by a new Facebook messaging system. And while Zuckerberg continually downplayed the pre-announcement hype that this new messaging system was meant to be a "Gmail killer," it could mean huge changes in how consumers interact with email.
In Facebook's new messaging system, if one friend emails another, the message will pop up in the chat window on Facebook or on the Facebook iPhone application launched today, or through an SMS message, according to Facebook's Engineering Director Andrew "Boz" Bosworth. Plus, the entire conversation history between the user and that specific person will display in a single thread, regardless of channel.
That's a function that makes Bosworth jealous of today's generation, because, he explained, he doesn't have the history of his digital conversations with his girlfriend—which happened all over social media, email, SMS, etc—all in one place like an old pack of letters. With this app, future couples could keep anything they say to each other through any electronic media, and reference it easily.
'It's Not Email, it Handles Email'
With nearly 35,000 viewers watching on Facebook Live, Bosworth explained how the platform is modeled more on chat than email, and uses an open source platform, hBase, to connect all the channels. "It's not email," Zuckerberg clarified. "It handles email."
The new messaging system, which should be rolled out in a couple months, will enable Facebook's new "social inbox," which is a three-tier system.
- First tier messages are communications from friends and family, a sort of organic white list the user can fine tune.
- Second tier messages go into the "other" box, which includes opt-in messages from senders recipients want to hear from, but will probably only check once a day, such as marketing communications.
- The final tier, "junk," is just what it says, according to Zuckerberg and Bosworth, all the spam current email systems filter out.
Users can manage their privacy settings to only get messages from their Facebook friends and family, or move senders around in the tiers. While that may sound confusing, Zuckerberg hopes the inherent tiers of Facebook friends, friends-of-friends, etc., will make the organization organic. He said, "We've tried to make it so that people don't have to think about this stuff."