Facebook has officially unveiled its rumored plans to bring an e-mail service to its tens of millions of registered users. But because it's Facebook, it's doing so much more. It wants to become your centralized location for every message on every medium possible.
Facebook has overtaken every social networking site and become the site that dominates most Internet users' online time. However, the one thing it hasn't been able to tackle is external communications. That is, if you want to talk to someone who isn't on Facebook, you've had to turn elsewhere, whether it's AIM, your cell phone, or e-mail provider.
Today, Facebook pulled away the veil on "Seamless Messaging," a brand new service that connects all your communications into one hub.
In an official Facebook blog post, Joel Seligstein describes the new service thusly: "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."
Beyond all that, yes, you will be able to have an @facebook.com e-mail address, even if you don't have a Facebook user account. However, Facebook isn't really framing it as an e-mail provider. Rather, it will be more like an extension of its existing message-sending service.
That means, unlike most other e-mail providers, Facebook.com e-mail users won't have cluttered interfaces with CCs, BCCs, subject lines, etc. You'll only be able to enter in someone's name or e-mail address, type up a message, and send it. "We wanted to make this more like a conversation," explained Seligstein.
Moreover, Facebook e-mail is built with a social perspective in mind. So, you won't have a dry inbox with a handful of sorting features. What you'll have is a completely dynamic inbox, pulling together every conversation you ever have with a person - including e-mails, text messages, chat conversations, and Facebook communications. The inbox will also learn which messages are more important to you - which are automated bill payment notifications and which are meaningful conversations with friends.
You'll have all sorts of customization options, and will get to play with it yourself when the service goes live to everyone shortly. In the meantime, Facebook wants you to know it's trying to make every communication you have go through its servers.
"Relatively soon, we'll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly. We aren't there yet, but the changes today are a small first step," the blog post says near its conclusion.
To read Seligstein's full post, and see a video about the new service, without actually seeing any of it in action, you can go here.