Friday, November 19, 2010

Facebook is attempting suicide by spam

I remember clearly the moment when I thought Facebook would be the future of messaging, replacing email. It was a few years back, I am not exactly sure when but I would guess 2008.

My wife told me she sent an email to a friend, and the friend did not answer. She waited a day or two, then she realized her friend was on Facebook as well. Therefore, she sent her a Facebook message and got an instant reply. Curious, she asked her friend why she did not reply to her email.

The answer?

"I did not receive it. It must have landed in my Spam folder."

Pop. A light went on in my brain (there must be some empty space there, I guess). It became obvious to me: that failed attempt represented my wife's last email to her friend. From that moment on, email was dead in their conversations. It was going to be only Facebook messaging.

Many people think of spam as something annoying they have to delete. In reality, the killer is not the spam you receive, is the messages you send which are flagged as spam. The false positives. They kill your faith in the system. They give everyone an excuse ("Sorry, I did not receive it". "Yes, you did, you liar!". "No, I swear I did not. It must be in my Spam folder!". "Yeah, right...").

The beauty of Facebook is that there was no spam. Nobody could send you a message, unless they were a friend. There was the risk of being spammed with requests for friendship, but who would do it, knowing it would automatically get a no? The simple way to avoid spam was to be sure your Facebook friends were actual friends. Not a difficult task.

Yep, this messaging system had a flaw: you were not able to receive messages from strangers.

But that flaw was its #1 strength.

Who cares Facebook messaging did not cover email? If I wanted spam, I would have continued using email. Facebook messaging was about the messages I really wanted to receive. Not the ones I hated.

Facebook new messaging system, announced this week, turns the table around. Completely. They are now allowing you to have a email address. You can also import other email accounts in it. It is email + SMS + IM in one Inbox. Now strangers can send you messages in Facebook. They can spam you on Facebook.

The future of messaging, they say. The thing that will kill email, they say.

Maybe. Maybe it will kill email. But it could kill Facebook messaging as well. Facebook has decided to welcome spam in their system. The one thing that made their system great, because it was not there.

Facebook is attempting suicide by spam.