Facebook New Messages Service

So Facebook are launching a new version of their Messages service, which despite now offering you an email address, they are keen to stress this is not a new email system.   They have a very good blog post about their new service: http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=452288242130  and FAQs via their Help Centre: http://www.facebook.com/about/messages/#!/help/?topic=new_messages

If like me, you have a common name and you want to have a sensible Facebook email address you need to ensure that you have a sensible username on Facebook as soon as possible.  This is because your Facebook username will make the start of your new email address e.g.:

Profile: facebook.com/username
Email: username@facebook.com

If you are not certain what your Facebook username is, then look at your profile page on Facebook and whatever comes after the last / at the end of the URL is your Facebook username.  If you currently have a lot of digits and code there at the moment, you can set your username by going to Account – Account Setting – Username – Change.  According to Facebook you can only change this username once, so you need to ensure it is something you want to keep.  It took me several attempts to find a configuration of my own name that I could use, as most of them had already been taken.  

There is going to be a slow release of who gets access to the New Messages service, but if you would like to request an early account you can do so via : http://www.facebook.com/about/messages/#!/about/messages/

I see the main advantage of this New Message service being that I will now be able to easily respond to and send a Facebook message from within my own “normal” email account.  For example recently I was working on a project and we needed to arrange some meeting times with the students who were part of the project.  We emailed their University email accounts, but after a few days only one of the students had responded.  From looking around our computer clusters I know that our students are regular Facebook users, so I found the students on Facebook and sent them a message from my personal Facebook account to their personal Facebook account.  The students responded instantly, they hadn’t been ignoring our other emails, they just didn’t check their University email as often as they checked Facebook.  The only problem being that I now have several “Friend” requests from these students.  They are all very nice, but for me, Facebook is my private life and I’m quite picky about who I accept as a friend.  With the new Facebook Message service I could have sent them a Facebook “Email” from my work email address and had all of the responses back to that too.  

I think that this New Message service will also drive more people into using Facebook on a more regular basis and may even ensure that users don’t wander to a new social networking service.  It seems to have taken a lot of ideas from Google Wave, but it has the added advantage that its users already use Facebook for communicating on a daily basis and this will just enhance that communication.  Google Wave failed for me, as I firstly didn’t have anyone to Wave with and though I make good use of Google Docs I don’t use my Google mail account very often, therefore it was never going to become part of my “norm”.  

I would argue that Facebook is already one of the key communication tools of choice for our students, and if texting, IM, email and chat are going to become integrated into this one service it can only accelerate its popularity. We in the Library world need to stay up to date with these developments, and expect to see more enquiries coming to us from Facebook accounts.  The beauty of the new system is that it allows seamless communication to those inside and outside the walls of Facebook.

Post by : Lisa Anderson

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