Here’s a weird one from the Facebook blog about their new “Messages” service that has been rolling out over the last few weeks. The fundamental idea is interesting, in that all your texts, emails, instant messages or “Messages” are consolidated into one collected stream. Of course, you have to use a facebook.com email address and you and your friends need to have your cell phone numbers registered on Facebook (which will be made available to Facebook applications too).
There’s a few problems with that, methinks. Your whole online life could just go poof if Facebook decides to ban you or accidentally deletes your data. Plus there’s the whole security issue, with Facebook less than stellar track record at keeping your information private. And from what I can see this messaging only will be accessible through Facebook. You wouldn’t have ownership of your own personal communications with friends and businesses, like you do by syncing an email account with Outlook or Thunderbird.A feature of Messages that is being mightily touted is “The Social Inbox”:
“It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. 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.”
Which is fine and dandy, although “…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.”
Here’s the part that sticks in my craw though – they are acting as if this is the most amazing development since sliced bread:
“This kind of message control is pretty unprecedented and people have been wanting to do this with email (and phone calls) for a long time. Messages reverses the approach to preventing unwanted contact. Instead of having to worry about your email address getting out, you’re now in control of who can actually reach you.”
Really?! Unprecedented??? Balderdash! Does the word “message filter” or “sorting rule” not mean anything to the undoubtedly tech savvy people at Facebook? The ability to sort and filter messages by sender or address book is NOT the second coming, I have to report. That sort of feature has been available almost since the very first email clients. But, even more amazingly, “…you can also change your account settings to be even more limited and bounce any emails that aren’t exclusively from friends.” Wow! Just like setting up a rule to automatically deleting any emails from people not in your address book! How cutting edge can you get, baby?!?
And the truly galling part? It’s far more limited than message filtering. You have exactly two folders, Inbox and Other, and two filtering rules to choose from. That’s it – you can’t create your own folders, nor can you define your own sorting rules. Offer a new service, fine, ok. But to make it’s lack of standard email filters seem like the best feature ever known to man, and only Facebook could have come up with something so awe inspiring? Please! It’s just disgusting.
Finally, the whole concept of an integrated IM, email and SMS inbox is not new either – you already get that with Gmail and Google Voice. Plus voice mail transcripts too, which Facebook is definitely *not* offering.
Facebook: innovating their way towards reinventing the wheel for the umpteenth time, but doing it in such a way that they own your information and control all access to it.