To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Facebook rolls out full webmail and text messaging system

Would you trust Facebook to act as your mail server and text message forwarding service?

This morning UK users logged in to Facebook to find that messaging has been given a big overhaul. There’s a new interface and the long-promised email system has finally been implemented. This means that every user can have an email address, which they can use to communicate with friends who don’t use Facebook themselves. Another feature of the service allows you to register a mobile number, so friends can then contact you via text message.

As with many changes to Facebook, privacy issues abound. Key concerns include: that messages can only be archived and not deleted, how much information will be kept about non-Facebook users who contact you at your Facebook address, and exactly how your emails’ content may or may not be tied in to advertising content. Facebook’s already patchy history of privacy concerns and communication with its users won’t do it any favours here.

However, assuming you’re happy to use Facebook Messages for all your online communication needs – and many people will be – how easy is it to use? It’s early days, and there are bound to be a few teething problems, but we’ve put the mail system through its paces.


It’s easy to set up and every stage is clearly annotated and explained. Any step in the process can be skipped and dealt with later – this also means that you don’t have to create a Facebook email address at all if you don’t want one.

FB email signup
It’s very easy to get started

The first step is to register your Facebook email address. Ideally, you’ll want your real name, but the more popular ones have already gone, as our Tom Morgan discovered. Those of us with more unusual names are less likely to run into trouble.

The main interface for your Facebook Messages account is a slightly sleeker version of its previous incarnation. It’s been divided into two sections: Messages and Other. Messages contains only private messages from your Facebook friends. The Other section includes emails from non-Facebook users, as well as all the messages from Facebook Groups that you’re a member of. If you subscribe to a large number of groups, the Other index will be cluttered before you even start receiving emails.

In both the Messages and Other sections, all messages from the same source are run together into a single conversational thread, including older messages that were previously divided by subject. This has more in common with the way iOS and Android smartphones handle text messages than with any traditional email client, and we found it intensely annoying. Because of the lack of subject headers, messages sent to non-Facebook email addresses are always headed “Conversation with [your name]”.

Subjects are now a thing of the past
No subject headers for Facebook

The lack of subject headers makes Facebook Messages a poor candidate if you like to carry on multiple discussions about different topics with a single person or group of persons, but its simplicity will doubtless appeal to many users, particularly those who never got to grips with the structure of traditional emails in the first place. An effective search box makes it easy to find individual messages if you know what keywords to look for.

Pages: 1 2