Your Guide To Facebook Messages

Mark Zuckerberg has announced some crazy stats about Facebook and the new Messages system. He  revealed that 350 million users make use of Facebook messages, sending 4 billion a day — that’s personal messages, not messages from Pages or Groups.

During today’s Facebook Messages announcement, Zuck recalled talking to high schoolers recently and asking them how they communicate with one another. They don’t like email. “It’s too formal,” Zuckerberg noted. So about a year ago, Facebook set out to overhaul the system. But this isn’t just about email.

This is not an email killer. This is a messaging experience that includes email as one part of it,” Zuckerberg said. It’s all about making communication simpler. “This is the way that the future should work,” he continued.

Here are the keys to what a modern messaging system needs according to Zuckerberg:

  • seamless
  • informal
  • immediate
  • personal
  • simple
  • minimal
  • short

To do that, Facebook has created three key things: Seamless messaging, conversation history, and a social inbox. Essentially, they’ve created a way to communicate no matter what format you want to use: email, chat, SMS — they’re all included. “People should share however they want to share,” engineer Andrew Bosworth said.

Alongside the product on Facebook.com, this is going to work on their mobile applications as well. An updated iPhone app is launching shortly. It’s important that you can keep messages going while you’re on the go, Bosworth noted.

But you don’t need an app. It’s important to note that this can work with SMS too.

And yes, everyone can get an @facebook.com email address if they want. But they don’t need to get one — you can use any email address.

In order to make this work, “we had to completely rebuild the infrastructure that this system is build on,” Bosworth noted. People are aware of Facebook’s Cassandra system, but now they’ve built something new called hBase (working alongside the open source community again).

He said that 15 engineers have worked on this product — remarkably, this is the most that have ever worked on a single Facebook project.

This messaging system will be rolling out pretty slowly over the period over the next few months, Zuckerberg said.

Questions & Answers

Q: What does this product not have that you want it to have?
A: There are a lot of little features, IMAP is the next big thing to integrate.

Q: Will there be voice?
A: Maybe eventually. The thing that links SMS and e-mail though is that it’s text-based.

Q: Advertising? Gmail killer?
A: Advertising works the same way as it does the rest of the site. It doesn’t target based on specific information in messages. Codename for the project was Titan. Gigabox was the name of its last messaging product. It works just fine with Gmail users as well — aka it’s not a Gmail killer.

Q: Can you control information?
A: You can delete e-mails and messages. But there’s not separation of SMS and e-mail or IM because the goal is to make it seamless integration.

Q: How difficult was it to build this?
A: “It was definitely a big technical challenge.”

Q: How will this system refine the social graph? What about people not on Facebook?
A: There’s the main folder and the other folder. You can promote people to appear in your main folder. Using your network around you to make communication better.