Messages aims to make online conversations easier by being more flexible and, according Facebook engineer Joel Seligstein, "feel more like a human conversation".
It also means messages from your friends are prioritised while everything else goes into a separate ‘other’ folder. There are also other enhancements such as adding or removing people from threads, sending attachments or forwarding messages.
In a blog, Seligstein explained, "Between mobile devices and the internet we can be more connected today than ever before, but there is still a feeling that the technology can also act as a barrier between us. When I want to share with someone it should be as simple as deciding who I want to share with and what I want to say. It should feel more like a human conversation.
"Today I'm excited to announce the next evolution of Messages. You decide how you want to talk to your friends: via SMS, chat, email or Messages. They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn't have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message."
In addition to the integrated, intuitive service, every person on Facebook has the chance to have an @facebook.com email address who wants one. Both Messages, and the new @Facebook email addresses are being rolled-out "gradually" from today, with the aim of making it available to everyone over the next few months.
Seligstein stressed the email service was in addition to Messages, which should not be categorised as email.
"To be clear, Messages is not email," he said. "There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key. We modeled it more closely to chat and reduced the number of things you need to do to send a message. We wanted to make this more like a conversation."
Adopting the person-specific communication feed strategy made popular by Apple’s iPhone sms display, all communications via Facebook Messages with a particular person will be kept together in one place, whether they are sent over chat, email or SMS.
This will enable Facebook users to see everything they have ever discussed with each friend as a single conversation.
Seligstein said, "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."
The new service also boasts with "unprecedented" privacy settings, according to the engineer, with the ability to bounce any emails that are not exclusively from friends.
He added, "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."
Facebook’s launch, anticipated last week, arrives on the same day AOL launched 'Project Phoenix', its new "intuitive" beta webmail service, in the US.
The rival AOL service, which will launch fully in the UK next year, has been designed to make sending emails a quicker and more intuitive process.
It allows instant or text messages to be sent from the inbox, and also features a Livestream within the inbox so users can update Facebook and Twitter from there.
This article was first published on mediaweek.co.uk