Facebook held a press conference this afternoon to announce that they are furthering their reach from their current message system into actual email with an @facebook.com address. Users who elect to use the new email system will be able to seamlessly use the email address along with the Facebook messages AND chat. All of your conversations with your friends, no matter the medium, will be logged in your account.
The new system will also allow for additional privacy measures in the form of filters for messages. You can set messages from certain friends and emails from non-Facebook users to filter into the main category, filter not-as-important mail into the “Other” folder, and then adjust the levels of privacy for the “Junk” folder. For example, you can set your privacy settings high enough that only your friends can send you email, effectively bouncing out all others. Other clients have attempted to create spam filters this strong, but this could be the first one to master it.
It all sounds great, doesn’t it?
However, as of now, there isn’t an option that will make this beneficial to businesses, unless businesses can make their own Facebook email address for their pages. For example, if we could create firstname.lastname@example.org for our fan page, we could then keep a steady log of conversations with our fans and potential clients. This could become a feature in the future, but it appears to only be for personal accounts at this time.
The next question for personal users then is, do you trust Facebook enough to keep your personal email private? It’s no secret that the social media network has been fraught with privacy issues, and since their third-party apps–like Farmville and Mafia Wars–have been caught selling information to others, one has to ask how safe your emails will be.
At least this time around, Facebook is slowly leaking out access to the email feature. As of today, the email service will be invite only, much like Gmail’s beginnings. Then over the course of a few months, once they work out the bugs, it will be available to all users.
During the conference, the speakers made it perfectly clear that they don’t expect this service to replace other popular services like Hotmail, Yahoo!, or Gmail. They envision their mail (Facemail, perhaps?) to be a way for users to keep track of all their conversations with their friends. I’m sure that’s what they say now, but it wouldn’t surprise me (and shouldn’t surprise anyone) if they one day amps up their service to be a main competitor with the other giants. Just from looking at Alexa and Page rankings alone, Facebook isn’t far from topping them all as it is.