Facebook Messages as a Free Email Service

Capabilities, the Pros and the Cons

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Facebook Messages

Facebook Messages combines emails, conversations, and texts with Facebook friends in a single, simple place. Facebook Messages works well for a limited amount of personal mail, texts and messages, but to handle all your mail, Facebook Messages could do well with more robust tools for managing emails and contacts.

Pros

  • The spam filter weeds out spam quite effectively, and you can set up Facebook Messages to accept mail only from people you know
  • Facebook Messages search is fast and simple.

Cons

  • Facebook Messages lacks POP or IMAP access for use in desktop and mobile email applications
  • An email address book and keyboard shortcuts are missing 
  • Facebook Messages cannot fetch mail from other email clients, and you cannot send using other email clients

Description

  • Facebook Messages combines email, text messages, and Facebook's own personal messages as well as chat in one communication package.
  • Messages are arranged chronologically as conversations with certain senders or groups.
  • Easy archiving helps keep your Facebook Messages inbox clean.
  • A spam filter detects and banishes much junk mail automatically to a special folder. What gets through can be reported to improve the filter.
  • You can also set up Facebook Messages to accept only messages from people you know in Facebook.
  • To get to the most important messages first, you can have mail and messages from certain senders relegated to an "Other" folder.
  • Search returns result from messages' full text fast.  Archived mail can be searched separately.
  • Facebook Messages shows all email and message's content using text only by default. You can expand that to see the full message.
  • New mail notifications appear in the Facebook toolbar.
  • You can export your Facebook Messages emails, texts and chat transcripts as web pages.

    Review

    Facebook is great for sharing your thoughts, photos and videos with individuals or groups. 

    Facebook as a Closed Email System

    You can set up Facebook Messages to accept mail only from people you know in Facebook — whether they send it via Facebook itself, email or SMS text.

    Facebook Messages Filters Spam

    Automatically, Facebook Messages weeds out spam. It does so quite effectively, and marking as spam means the system will "learn".

    Finding and Reading Mail in Facebook Messages

    Unfortunately, you cannot file or label messages, and other than leaving them unread there's no way to flag either.

    Message search looks simple, and Facebook Messages does return relevant mail reasonably fast. To scan all your messages, you'll have to search inbox, "other" and archive separately.

    Facebook Messages arranges all communication as chronological successions of messages with individual contacts or groups. This often works fine and makes for a simple but useful way to tame the deluge of messages. Sometimes, though, this lumping together of disparate threads is confusing, and there's no way to liberate individual messages or conversations.

    The messages themselves appear in a condensed format. Plain text alone and stripping of unneeded text let you see the relevant message fast; one click gets you the message in its full glory.

    Dealing with Messages in Facebook

    When you're done with a message, you can archive or delete it. Archiving is easy enough and removes the entire conversation from the Facebook Messages inbox (until a new email or text from the contact arrives, of course). Deletion is more granular and cumbersome: it's possible to delete individual messages from conversations or all mail exchanged with a sender; in either case, it takes too long.

    Accessing Facebook Messages

    Given the web interface's simplicity and limitations, it's all the more unfortunate that Facebook Messages does not offer access from standard email programs. You can get (limited) apps for mobile devices, of course, and Facebook Messages has lightweight web interfaces to be used on the go, too.

    If you want to take your emails and messages with you — to an email program, or to create a backup  — Facebook Messages only offers an HTML file format.