Facebook unveiled a new messaging platform Monday that takes aim at one of the Internet's first applications, e-mail. Although blogs had been speculating that Facebook would announce an e-mail service to rival Google's Gmail, Facebook said e-mail was just one component of its plans.
Facebook announced Messages. Users will be able to decide how they want to talk to their friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. Friends will receive users' messages through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and they will be also able to have a conversation in real time. Users shouldn't have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. "Simply choose their name and type a message," Facebook said.
Facebook will also provide an @facebook.com email address to every person on Facebook who wants one. People will be able to share with friends over email, whether they're on Facebook or not.
Facebook clarified that Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and users can send a message by hitting the Enter key. It is modeled it more closely to chat and in an effort to reduce the number of things users need to do to send a message. "We wanted to make this more like a conversation," Facebook explained.
Messages is built for communicating with friends, so it made sense to organize primarily around people. All of the messages with someone will be together in one place, whether they are sent over chat, email or SMS. Users will be able to see everything they've discussed with each friend as a single conversation.
With new Messages, a user's Inbox will only contain messages from his/her friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where users will be look at them separately. Emails from people who aren't on Facebook will initially go into the Other folder, and users will be able to easily move that conversation into the Inbox. After that point, all the future conversations with that friend will show up there, Facebook said.
Users will be also able to change their account settings to be even more limited and bounce any emails that aren't exclusively from friends.