We’re live at the St Regis Hotel in San Francisco waiting for the Facebook event to get underway. We’ve been discussing the rumored email product on the site since Friday, and pretty much the hype could not be greater.
As usual, we’ve included a live stream of the event below, however if you refresh the page there will be live coverage including photographs of the speakers and product photos.
[9:40 PST] – We’re waiting for the speakers to walk up and get this event started. It should get going in about 20 minutes.
Below is the gong used at all of Facebook’s big announcements to mark a project launch.
[9:55 PST] – It appears as though the entire product team responsible for this product has just shown up. This team is much larger than some of the others we’ve seen at Facebook events (about 20 – 25 people). Still waiting for the show to get under way. T-minus 5 minutes and counting!
[10:00 PST] – Mark Zuckerberg has just come on and the show is about to start! He’s mentioning how he spoke to high schoolers recently and wanted to find out what they’re using. He is mentioning how he asked the students what they use for email. Ultimately, they told him that “email is too slow”. Ultimately, the main issue was that people have to create subjects, and it needs to be a more formal letter.
[10:03 PST] – Right now we (Facebook) use email internally. Right now there are around 350 million people actively using Facebook messaging. That number is probably due to the fact that it’s a simple system. There are also more than 4 billion messages shared every day through the Facebook messaging system.
[10:05] – Ultimately we don’t think that messaging is going to continue to operate the same way that it does today. He’s also highlighting many of the features that “next generation messaging should include. “Now, I’m going to introduce the
[10:07] – People are going to be able to have “Facbeook.com” email messages, however “this is not email”. One of the problems with the existing messaging systems is that there is a threading model which is kind of archaic.
[10:09] – All of this will enable simple, real-time messaging. We are also launching the “social inbox”. Since you have entered your friends lists and your friends have entered their friends lists, we can do some extremely effective filtering for you. While there are existing systems that filter out junk, there are various types of junk. Up until now, the primary way to handle messaging is through the development of white lists. At Facebook, you get that automatically. Not only do you get that, but you also can get messages filtered from people who are “friends of your friends”. The default experience is “high signal” messages that are really personal to you, and then we can have another inbox which is for the lower signal content. [Editor's note: this is definitely big]
[10:12] – Next up is Andrew Bosworth to discuss the new features. In essence this should be extremely simple, we should just have a person and a message. You username will be your public email address. However this system is not email. Instead, we’ve modeled this much more after chat. We’re not launching email.
[10:17] – The next part of this is conversation history. He’s showing a screenshot of filtering through the entire conversation history that he exchanged with his girlfriend. It doesn’t include emails, it doesn’t include SMS, and that’s kind of frustrating. The next generation will definitely include that. In order to support this we had to rebuild the entire infrastructure. But how did we build it? Facebook rebuilt their entire messaging system from the ground up.
[10:21] – This is the biggest engineering team we’ve ever had on a product (as I noted earlier) with 15 engineers. The last component is the Social Inbox. We’ve decided to break it into 3 groups, “messages” (from your friends and their friends), “other”, and “junk”.
[10:22] – You can now go control your privacy settings to control who can email you. You can create a setting, for example, that lets you select only your friends to send you messages rather than including friends of friends.
[10:25] – This product has taken over 1 year to develop. Mark Zuckerberg is emphasizing that this is not an email killer. “We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and I’m going to shut down my Yahoo account and switch exclusively to Facebook.” We think that people are moving towards real-time, simpler communication.
[10:27] – We’re now accepting questions. First, question: “What does this system not do what you’d like it to do?” Zuckerberg is responding. “We want it to have IMAP support. It already speaks email protocol, however having it sync with other email systems is on the roadmap.” Some things we decided to leave out. We’ve decided to switch it so that we don’t have separate subjects for each message. Instead, you’ll have a single thread with each person.
[10:30] – Bosworth states that “Our goal is to make this a single conversation.” Zuckerberg adds that, “we’ve tried to make it so people don’t have to think about this stuff.” In other words the messaging will be ever-present. SMS, IM, Email, and Facebook messages are are compiled into a single message thread.
[10:50] – I asked if this is the primary communication layer and it sounded as though this isn’t, although you could use it for that. The response was simply that, “If you want to use this as your primary communication layer you can” and they’re sure that users will do that. We’ll be posting updates about the product over the coming hours, and days.