During a special announcement today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that over 4 billion messages are communicated each day on Facebook's existing messaging system. He provided some anecdotal evidence (specifically, recent conversations he had with students at a high school where he was making a presentation) that users depend on SMS and Facebook for sending messages to friends more often than email. The next generation messaging system from Facebook is designed to be:
- Integrated with multiple channels
The new Facebook messaging system is a convergent approach with three primary features:
The new system will work with email, SMS, IM and Facebook messages. Users will be able to sign up for a facebook.com email address using their Facebook username. The system is not tied to email, but will work with email, as well as other messaging channels. If you send a message from Facebook to a friend who prefers to receive messages by SMS, that's how the message will be delivered.
Almost every modern communication channel gives you the option to save a history of messages. Gmail keeps threads of messages, your phone has an SMS log and most IM clients allow you to save transcripts of your chat sessions.
The new Facebook messaging system will integrate ALL of these methods into a single location. All of your SMS, IM, email and Facebook conversations are stored in one convenient location so that you can track your messages as one flowing conversation instead of searching multiple systems or channels for an important message.
Facebook leverages its users' friends list to create a messaging inbox that focuses on the messages you care about the most. Since most people never take the time to develop comprehensive "white lists" (lists of approved email addresses that can be delivered to your inbox), spam filtering never does enough to keep important messages from being mixed in with messages you really don't care about. A message from your wife about your birthday dinner, for example, shouldn't be displayed between a bill and a bank statement.
With the Facebook messaging system, your Inbox will display messages based on the way you want to see them. It uses your existing Facebook privacy settings to determine which messages are delivered. Only want to show messages from people on your Friends list? Done. Okay with getting messages from Friends of Friends? No problem. Want to see the messages that didn't make it to the Inbox? Facebook offers an "Other" mailbox that users can check any time. If there is something in there from a source that isn't a friend on Facebook, you can add them to the list of people whose messages appear in your inbox. It even works if they don't have a Facebook account at all.
Facebook will start rolling out the new messaging system gradually, starting with an invitation-based approach. As the system scales and feedback is received, Facebook will make revisions and improvements before rolling out to all users.
The Future of Messaging?Since no one has actually used the system yet, it is difficult to predict how users will respond to it, or how quickly people will adopt Facebook as a primary source of messaging. However, the idea of sending a message to a friend by name, rather than phone number, IM handle or email address, and having a system that delivers that message based on the channel the recipient prefers, is a brilliant idea. It allows people to think about what they want to say, rather than how they want to deliver their message.
Facebook continually struggles with privacy concerns, and some users may not be willing to trust the social media giant with their private conversations, but for those users who live in Facebook and crave a unified approach to messaging, this multi-channel approach may be the future, indeed.
Learn more and request an invitation at Facebook messages.