In-Depth Review: Facebook’s New Message Inbox Product

Yesterday, Facebook launched its new Messages product, allowing users to see their communication with someone over email, Facebook Messages, Facebook Chat, instant messages, and SMS in the same thread. Facebook automatically delivers messages where it thinks a user is most likely to see them, creates a unified history of the messages, and filters the threads by relationship with the sender to create a Social Inbox.

Here’s a closer look at exactly how the new Messages product works:

Setting Up Messages

Facebook will be rolling out access to the new features over the next several months. Members of the press have been set up with accounts, and can invite two friends each using the multi-friend selector. These invites are not delivered immediately, though, and instead put the recipient near the top of the queue for the roll out.

When a user gains access to the new Messages product, they’ll see a prompt at the top of their home page. From there, they’re directed to claim their new [public username] email address. Emails from friends and friends of friends are routed to their primary Messages folder, while emails from other senders are filtered into the Other Messages folder. Users can still change their privacy settings to prevent non-friends from sending them messages. Emails from anyone who isn’t authorized by this settings are not delivered, and no bounce message is returned.

Next, users are asked to connect their mobile phone to their Facebook account “so friends can use Messages to send you texts”. In the same way that users have activated Facebook for mobile through Account Settings, users get a confirmation code texted to them, which they enter online to confirm their phone number. Lastly, users are asked to go online through  Facebook Chat to receive Messages over this medium as well.

The Social Inbox

Once set up, users will see that they now have two folders. The “Messages” folder defaults to hold all of a user’s Messages with friends or friends of friends. “Other Messages” holds Messages with those who aren’t connected to a user, Page updates, Event messages, and messages from old groups. When a user has new Messages, they’ll see counters next to the Messages navigation links in the Facebook home page’s left sidebar.

Users can move conversations between folders to increase or decrease their visibility. Messages from friends of friends display how a user is connected to the sender.

Each thread has a radio button next to it allowing users to toggle it between read and unread. Within each thread, the medium from which a Message was sent is denoted with icons for email or chat. At the bottom of the inbox, users see options to view their Archive or Junk, to which Messages can be assigned to reduce clutter. Users also have the option to permanently delete conversations.

Sending and Receiving Messages

When a user sends a Message, Facebook processes several signals to determine which medium to route it to. If the recipient is actively online on Facebook they’ll receive the Message as a Chat. If the Message is a reply to an email, it will be sent to email. Users can check a box next to the reply field to purposefully send a text message. Regardless of the delivery medium, all Messages appear in the inbox in a thread with the recipient, creating a history of the conversation. This is the first time Facebook has offered users a record of their Facebook Chat, and this functionality could pull users away from GChat, which many people use for its instant message log.

If a user opens a Facebook Chat, the last few Messages from the thread are displayed in the Chat window for context. When users receive email from Messages, the previous few Messages in the thread are included with the new Message.

When replying to a Message, users can toggle a checkbox to use Quick Reply mode, in which hitting ENTER sends the reply, similar to instant messaging. Facebook has integrated user requests for a forward button, allowing users to add people to conversations. Users can upload multiple attachments, including photos, or take a single photo with their webcam. Users must download attachments to view them, unless they are Microsoft Office documents, such as .doc or .xls files, in which case users can follow a link to where they can see a preview.

How Messages Will Change Communication

The new Messages product will not immediately disrupt the institution of email. Information which only comes in that medium, and which rarely requires interaction a human, such as bank statements or newsletters, is best kept within one’s email inbox. Exchanges in which users share lots of attachments, especially in formats other than Microsoft Office’s, will benefit from in-line previews and mass downloading offered by established email services.

Over time, however, social conversations may be pulled into Facebook. If a conversation naturally occurs across mobile, synchronous, and asynchronous mediums, such as day-to-day exchanges with a friend, using a system which automatically optimizes for immediacy will make the exchange easier. Once part of a conversation occurs through Facebook Chat or private messages, email and text messages will soon feed back to the Social Inbox. Having a centralized, persistent record of the distributed conversation will also make Messages useful for organizing groups, perhaps better than Facebook’s Groups product which doesn’t encompass SMS or record Group Chat.

While the aggregation of additional mediums is useful, Facebook has also solved the biggest problem with its old Messages product. By filtering Messages according the user’s relationship with the sender, users will no longer lose an important one-to-one conversation amongst low-content Event messages, broadcasted Page updates, and other noise. When a user visits their main Messages folder, they’ll only see active conversations with the people they choose. By making it so easy to continue the conversation, Messages will keep us in direct contact as effectively as the news feed keeps us in indirect contact.

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Leave a Reply

19 Responses to “In-Depth Review: Facebook’s New Message Inbox Product”

  1. Arvell Craig says:

    Wow, this is very interesting. Kinda deep – almost confusing..

    But thanks for creating such an in-depth overview so fast.

    - A

  2. amanda cronin says:

    i am just enquiring on how to remove an application..its smiley central and it wont go off my chat!!removed it 4m my page but it hasnt worked

  3. Week in Review- Facebook Announces Messaging Overhaul, Hulu Breaks Ad Impressions Record, and Online Ad Spending Revenue Announced says:

    [...] together a collection of industry leaders and innovators.  Facebook used this opportunity to announce the long-anticipated overhaul of their messaging system.  While the new offering isn’t a “Gmail killer,” as was hypothesized by many, it certainly [...]

  4. Werenfried Ressl says:

    Ha! A “social inbox” would do well also for my existing mail accounts…

  5. Die soziale Meta-Inbox auf says:

    [...] lau­fen in der neuen “Social Inbox” zusam­men, wo alle Nachrichten in einem von zwei Ordnern lan­den: he “Messages” fol­der defaults to hold all of a user’s Messages with fri­ends or [...]

  6. » You @ Facebook’s New Messaging System | Custom Social Pages says:

    [...] received the invite to start using Facebook mail yet, but you can see more in-depth screen shots of how the system will work here. And if you’re eager to start using it and testing it out for yourself, you can request an invite [...]

  7. Social and Digital Media this Week: Facebook and Hulu Make News says:

    [...] Facebook’s long-awaited messaging product was finally unveiled this week.  The platform will combine Facebook messages, chats, instant messages, and text messages into a single thread, separated by friends or groups of friends. [...]

  8. New Email Management on Facebook! « Social Media Melting Pot says:

    [...] INSIDE FACEBOOK [...]

  9. New Inbox Management on Facebook! « Social Media Melting Pot says:

    [...] INSIDE FACEBOOK GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "technology"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", ""); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_below_post"); [...]

  10. June Lee says:

    How do you deactivate the New Message? I don’t like it.

  11. Josh Constine says:

    @June: You can not deactivate the New Messages product.

  12. Miguel says:

    I HATE THIS!! it should be deleted!!!

  13. fafa says:

    Me too i hate this new message inbox product
    How to delete this ???

  14. appLe says:

    HATE THIS TOO ~~ often didnt receive the msg that they reply to me .. !! =(

  15. Blis says:


  16. Milan says:


  17. Facebook Messages: convergence, conversation and content « Social media shizzle says:

    [...] Since Facebook launched its new Messages product in the US at the end of last year, it’s now made its way to the UK. It’s a big step in communications and could slowly change the way we use email. I’ve been thinking about some of the new features and how these could impact us. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video which gives an overview into what’s coming, and have a read of Inside Facebook’s in-depth review. [...]

  18. Social media shizzle » Facebook Messages: convergence, conversation and content says:

    [...] Since Facebook launched its new Messages product in the US at the end of last year, it’s now made its way to the UK. It’s a big step in communications and could slowly change the way we use email. I’ve been thinking about some of the new features and how these could impact us. If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video which gives an overview into what’s coming, and have a read of Inside Facebook’s in-depth review. [...]

  19. The One Yahoo Patent That Facebook Can’t Claim Is Too Vague To Enforce | EnterWebHub says:

    [...] two years after the patent was filed, Facebook launched its unified messaging product that offers this service. Email users can send messages to [username] to have them [...]

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