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article imageFacebook launches messaging service combining chat, SMS, email

By David Silverberg     Nov 15, 2010 in Internet
Today Facebook launched three new updates to create a "modern messaging system", allowing seamless integration between various technologies and a new display of conversation threads.
"Email and messaging should be simple," declared Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a press conference Monday. He explained three pillars to an overhauled messaging system on the social network site: seamless integration, conversation history and a social inbox.
Sending a message to multiple technologies will soon be available, Zuckerberg said. A Facebook blog post explains this makeover: "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."
In short, you can send a Facebook message to a friend, and that message can appear as an instant-message in Facebook Chat. Or it can be sent as an SMS to a cellphone. Email won't be the sole means of communication, Zuckerberg stressed.
Director of engineering Andrew Bosworth said people are more connected today to various devices, it's practically essential to reach out to them in multiple ways. "I shouldn't have a table in my head of what means of communication my grandmother prefers, my friend prefers," he noted.
The Facebook team added users will be able to get a email address as well, to be rolled out (with the other launches) in the next few months.
Trying out the new products is on an invite-only basis for now. Facebook Canada told "It is important to note that this is a US-only announcement and the International rollout will happen over time."
Conversation history is another branch of today's announcement. The blog post explains: " All of your messages with someone will be together in one place, whether they are sent over chat, email or SMS. You can see everything you've discussed with each friend as a single conversation." So if you have messaged your girlfriend for three years over Facebook, all those messages can be archived in one place (this is familiar to iPhone users who can see a thread of their SMS messages from a particular person).
Andrew Bosworth  Director of Engineering at Facebook  speaks at a press conference at the company s ...
Andrew Bosworth, Director of Engineering at Facebook, speaks at a press conference at the company's headquarters.
Screen grab from Facebook livestream
Zuckerberg said, "Five years from now, you can see a rich history of your relationship with individual friends."
Lastly, he explained how a social inbox would work: You'll have three folders - Messages, Other and Spam. In Messages, your inbox will only include messages from your friends and their friends. In Other, you'll receive messages that you might care about, but aren't high priority, such as updates from Pages or invites to events or messages from non-friends. Unwanted messages will be sent to Spam.
This new feature also gives you the ability to tweak your account settings to limit even more emails and bounce any emails that aren't from friends. Gmail users will also find this feature familiar, especially those who tried out the service's "priority" inbox this year.
Zuckerberg stresses these technologies are "not an email killer. This is a messaging system that includes email as part of it."
Before discussing the product details, Zuckerberg dropped a few key stats about Facebook messages: Facebook messaging and chat are used by 350 million of the 550 million members of the social network site; also, four billion messages are sent daily.
More about Facebook, Email, Social media, Sms
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