I’ve been excited about this new service since the team announced it a while back. In short, they decided to simplify the service, integrate it tightly with chat, email and SMS and it works well. You get given an @facebook.com email address based on your FB username which is a nice touch, especially if you were quick to reserve your name when that option was made available some time ago now.
The whole object of the messages product has been rethought and made to feel like one long conversation with someone. There are no subject lines any longer and all of your previous subjects are now shown in bold at the top of the individual messages. In my personal experience, most of my subject lines have been either no subject or something non-descriptive like “hey” so I completely endorse this idea. The no-subject simplicity also applies to email sent from the site and to the recipient will look very similar to traditional fb message alerts. Regular email this is not.
All the messages you’ve ever sent to someone will now be in one long thread which you can scroll back through and is searchable. You have the ability to delete individual messages as well as the whole thread if you like, as well as archive threads until you receive a new message from that person.
The SMS function is really just an expansion of how it always operated but is now more visible for users to see who might not have realised the function was available before. You used to be able to set your phone up to receive notifications if someone messages you, but now you can specify as the sender whether or not you want it to go to the recipient’s phone or not. You also have the option of nudging someone to suggest that they activate SMS if they haven’t yet done so.
For people living in the same country, this isn’t a big deal as most people have many inclusive texts per month on their plan anyway. For people communicating between countries, this could potentially save a lot of money, as texts to FB should be free for most. Even at normal national rate, they should still be less than half the cost of an international SMS. You can also of course text from the browser for absolutely nothing when you have a computer to hand. The issue is that not all countries and carriers support Facebook’s text notifications. It may also be a complex thing for some users to grasp at first, but it is quite straightforward in the end and definitely worth putting the time in to fully understand.
The email aspect is a welcome addition. Of course, practically none of us actually need another email address. We all need one to be able to sign up for a Facebook account in the firstplace. Even the most un-tech savvy people will have a hotmail, yahoo or ISP address at the very least, even if they haven’t yet graduated to Gmail.
Email in Facebook doesn’t work like traditional email and it’s not intended to replace your Gmail account, as mentioned earlier. It’s very simplified and really only designed to allow Facebook users who prefer messaging people through the site rather than by email to connect with non-facebook users in an easier way than was possible before. It’s all about convergence and ease of use. Of course, if you did want to use it to receive newsletters, sign up for services and so on, you could do that, but by this point in time, I don’t think many users will want to confuse themselves by doing this when they have an effective method already.
Other additions include the saving of your FB chat history in messages as well as an option for quickly replying by just pressing enter. These features really help to reinforce the idea of the constant conversation between two people. You can also attach files of any type to messages unlike before when you were limited to photos or video. It all adds up to a very substantial improvement over what it used to be. It’s powerful yet simple at its core, and makes a lot of sense for communicating with your friends and close ones.