17 Nov 2010
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Facebook unveils new 'Messages' - don't call it a Gmail killer

Facebook has unveiled a new messaging system that aims to do away with email as it’s traditionally thought of in favour of shorter, texts and instant messages.

The firm believes that “relatively soon” we'll stop using traditional phone numbers to contact each other: “We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly. We aren't there yet, but the changes today are a small first step,” it said.

“Today I'm excited to announce the next evolution of Messages,” said Facebook Engineer Joel Seligstein. “You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time.”

The advantage is this is that you don't need to worry about who prefers IM, email, texts and on what device, smartphone, PC, games console etc. “Simply choose their name and type a message.”

As expected, Facebook also revealed an @facebook.com email address for every person on Facebook who wants one so people can communicate over email whether they're on Facebook or not.

Facebook played down media reports that Messages was being referred to inside the company as a Gmail killer.

“To be clear, Messages is not email,” stated Seligstein. “There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modelled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation.”

The new layout will make all of your messages with a friend available in one place, whether sent over chat, email or SMS. You can see everything you've discussed with each friend as a single conversation.

“It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement,” continued Seligstein. “It's not that those other messages aren't important, but one of them is more meaningful. With new Messages, your Inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately.

“If someone you know isn't on Facebook, that person's email will initially go into the Other folder. You can easily move that conversation into the Inbox, and all the future conversations with that friend will show up there.”

So when can you expect to get your hands on an @facebook.co.nz email address?

“We'll be launching Messages and email addresses gradually and making it available to everyone over the next few months. Once you receive an invitation, you'll be able to get started and also invite your friends to join you,” finished Seligstein’s blog post.

Considering New Zealand is still waiting for Place to go live, we wouldn’t start deleting your old email accounts just yet.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the audience at Messages' unveiling, “If we do a good job, some people will say this is the way that the future will work."

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