It's more like instant messaging than email -- more like a conversation than a threaded email conversation. Yes, every communication that goes through the Facebook messaging platform will create a conversation history. Much like Google Wave, actually.
The idea is that you will push every digital communication through Facebook, and thus everything can be logged -- every message has a context. If you email and SMS your significant other, both those messages will appear in order, in the conversation history.
Facebook has invested in lots of shiny new infrastructure that builds upon their existing technologies -- they're ready for the swell of traffic that the
The 'social inbox' feature sounds a lot like a hyper-intelligent 'Priority Inbox' system. By default, email (or any communication) from your friends or friends-of-friends will appear at the top of your inbox, followed by everyone else. You can also automatically bounce anyone that isn't a friend; awesome! You can of course make it so non-Facebook friends appear at the top of your inbox too.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, closed with (roughly) these words. "This is not an email killer. This is a messaging system that includes email as one part of it. We don't want people to shut down their Yahoo or Gmail account. People are shifting towards more and more simple communication -- if we do a good job, we think more people will engage in IM [on Facebook's new platform]. If we do a good job at that, maybe one day, two years out, people will say that instant messaging, not email, is the way forward."
- There's no content filtering (no rules)
- Incoming mail from people that don't use Facebook will automatically hit your normal, 'non-priority' inbox
- You can move friends down the priority list, and move 'external' non-Facebook friends up
- Message forwarding will be possible
- Unlimited storage! Or at least, no explicit cap on how much data you can store
- There's a video after the break that demonstrates the new Messages product
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