Facebook Email? Um, not really

Facebook messaging

If you’re a social media geek you already know about Facebook’s live session today to introduce their new messaging system. If you’d like to see the re-caps go here. There had been a lot of buzz about Facebook rolling out a new email client, whether it was going to be a Gmail killer and a whole bunch of other speculation, but in the long run it’s really an extension of their existing messaging system, not email. Facebook’s Zuckerberg says This is NOT email, “Email’s too formal”. “Think of the friction of trying to think of the e-mail address and think of a subject line, write ‘Hey Mom,’ at the top and ‘Love, Mark’ at the bottom.” <snark>Oh the horror of complete messages</snark>.

Don’t go check just yet. The whole thing will be rolled out initially to a few thousand people and then gradually to the rest of the network. BUT if you want to get added to the invite list don’t send your email to anyone to get one (this is a scam that popped up immediately) Go to http://www.facebook.com/about/messages/ and click the link to request an invite.

Here are the basic features.

The new Facebook messaging will incorporate email, Facebook messages text (SMS) and other chat clients like Jabber all collected in an email address that will be yourusername@Facebook.com.

What’s different than email?

It’s going to feel more like a chat, or (dare I say it?) a Google Wave thread. There won’t be subject lines and you won’t be able to CC or BCC other users. You CAN forward messages however. Messages will be threaded which records a conversation with one person on all of the linked networks.

You’ll be able to filter messages in your “social in box” to sort your friends and not so friends into different buckets, bounce email from people you don’t know and move friends from one bucket to another.

It was interesting to watch the live stream with the Facebook folks catching questions from the live audience. It seemed to me that they got a little defensive as the questions rolled in and it seems to me that they may have rolled this out as almost a beta–for testing by that lucky few thousand–to work out some of the details that came up in questions.

Some are already calling the new offering Fmail, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to the existing Fmail app on the site. Oops, I expect they’ll shut that one down, but just in case don’t sign up, all of the discussions on the page reflect a broken product to me…

Last, but certainly not least, give this new product a little time to ripen. There will be bugs. And then there are the security issues. Remember the Google Wave security nightmare? They finally killed it and that’s Google, who’ve been doing messaging and email for a long time. Data mining teams must be rubbing their hands together in glee at the prospect of all that lovely data.