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Facebook Blames Email Problems On User "Confusion" (readwriteweb.com)
213 points by tim_sw on July 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 146 comments

I am reminded of an old Dilbert cartoon where they bring in a usability expert to help them write an app. After suggesting that the computer shock the user when they do the wrong thing, he quips, "I found this job to be a lot easier once I realized I hated people"

Seriously, Facebook. Do one thing and do it well. Enough of this conquer-the-universe bullshit. I'm already at the point where I want to jump ship; I just can't figure out how to do it without losing contact with my friends. It's like you're using our own friends against us. Pretty slimy.

My reaction to Facebook trying to take control of my email was that Facebook can go jump in a lake (My language was actually much worse than that.) I'm already primed to leave. I'm just waiting on the right opportunity to come along.

Enough of this conquer-the-universe bullshit.

Their end goal is to be the entire Internet in a curated show-you-only-what-you-agree-with-so-you-click-on-more-things model.

They won't stop or slow down until something else makes them irrelevant.

That model didn't work for AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, etc etc. But they were all networks that provided access to the wider Internet.

It's really weird to see Facebook working the other way round - a tiny company growing huge and grabbing more and more of the wider Internet.

What next? Facebook Video? Facebook VOIP?

Didn't they already try the Facebook video idea?

(Ah, yes, here – facebook movie rentals: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/09/business/la-fi-faceb... and they already offer video posting/sharing options in one's profile)

>That model didn't work for AOL //

Over it's lifetime I think AOL made quite a lot of money. Just because something comes to an end doesn't mean that it "didn't work".

They apparently currently have a market cap of 2.6 billion so many years after their heyday I'm amazed they're still going.

Yes, you're right.

I'm not quite sure how to word what I want to say.

The model of having a small contained network, with users doing everything on your computers, with a bit of access to the wider Internet, failed.

That's what AOL used to be. That model failed for AOL, and they converted to general ISP.

The electronic landscape in 1998 will be surprising to many people today - especially the eye watering prices.


My favourite quote from that page:

> "This is the computer industry as it used to be: people sharing ideas and solutions without the greed and grit with associated with today's corporate driven, litigation-laced, industry"

(remember this was written 23 years ago).

And so now, looking at Facebook, I see some similar features. They have their own email; their own "CB simulator"; etc.

Um, when people start waking up they will realize that it isn't, hasn't ever, and will never work. Facebook only functions on one core input; your demographic info. I would bet significant amounts of money that Facebook has permanently backed up everyone's demographic info for all eternity. It is the vulnerable point in the Facebook deathstar. No one already looks at or intentionally clicks on any adds on Facebook, imagine how difficult it would be to sell marketers that facebook flavored bull if the user demographics were junk info.

The thing about permanently backed up demographic info though: it changes. My age, for example, changes every year. My location changes every few years. My interests change. Hell, even gender changes.

All of those things are fairly trivial for FB to track. Age (obvious), Location (trackable through Places, geolocation, etc. through that thing in your pocket), Gender (presumably you would post a status update about something that big?), Employment (status, amassing colleagues as 'friends'?). It seems like they've hit on a constantly self-updating demographic info machine...

I was referring to your mention of "permanently backed up", i.e., stale demographic information, whose value decreases predictably with time. While FB is in business, you're spot on.

Demographic info may not be the only thing they know about. Given a lot of sites embed some sort of Facebook widget on their pages, they have a tracking mechanism.

If I had not explicitly signed-out of Facebook before visiting all these other sites, Facebook knows about it. And maybe also the browsing habits of people in my network. That gives a really deep profile about me - a lot more than just my demographics.

Recently there was an excellent article on ReadWriteWeb, about why Facebook terrifies Google: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/why_facebook_terrifies_...

Check out screen shots of their respective ad platforms in that article: the level of targeting that is possible with Facebook (which is only going to become deeper, given all the additional details they are gathering about me) is simply not possible with Google. This is one major reason why Google is pushing hard with Google+

"If I had not explicitly signed-out of Facebook before visiting all these other sites, Facebook knows about it."

Even if you have explicitly signed-out of Facebook, the presence of the like button on a site allows Facebook to track your movements on that site. Their like button javascript reports back a unique login cookie that is not erased when you sign off of Facebook. Pressing the like button is a small part of its purpose. Its purpose is to track you around the web as long as you have ever logged into Facebook before. This was all covered here on HN months ago, when I first learned of it.

They're worried about search but Facebook hasn't even tried any kind of search yet. Personally I'm not convinced they're as dangerous and plugged in as people think. Everything they've done seems to me to be the most obvious thing every time (e.g. instead of selling info to advertisers they just dump email addresses) and quite lazy.

They won't stop or slow down until something else makes them irrelevant.

I so hope open data combined with web-intents and a slew of standardized service-negotiation protocols comes and solves this in a final, crushing, open move.

Want event-management? Fine. That's data. Stored in your calendar. Which can be stored and managed somewhere else, just loosely connected, with OAuth to make sure nothing bad happens.

Want participant-management for those events? Fine. That's data attached to your events. Which can use your contact-data as a source. Which can be stored and managed somewhere else, just loosely connected, to one or many services, with OAuth to make sure nothing bad happens.

Want photos tied to those events? That's data. You get the idea. There should be no need to consolidate all your stuff one place. We don't do it in real life and we shouldn't have to do it on the internet either.

I dream of an internet composed of micro-services of open data talking together, composing new wonderful things.

You use the service which you think does things best for the things it does best, and you use other services for things you think they do better. You put together your own cloud of services and data.

In this world, horrible and monolithic beasts like facebook are not only not needed. They are not wanted.

We just need to standardize. We just need to chisel out the semantics of how we hook services together in a way which normal users can handle.

This is the only true path I can see forward, which stays true to the roots of the internet. This is the one path maximizing freedom, choice and reliability through network distribution.

I so cannot wait to see it realized.

That's right; facebook, google, apple and possibly others are on a course of mutually assured destruction. If they neglect any aspect of social networking (mail, friends, shopping, instant messaging) they fear that dominance in one aspect will lead to dominance in all.

To not play is to risk suicide.

Google nailed email and has search down pretty good. Facebook has social networking. Twitter has ... something that keeps people dumping money on it.

Personally, my money is on Google winning out, although not my investments.

I don't see any of them winning out, certainly not Google. Google did pretty well with email though personally I haven't touched my gmail in years (I let my iphone client manage it) and search seems extremely vulnerable to me. It's clear at this point that they're never going to "get" social.

"I just can't figure out how to do it without losing contact with my friends."

easy . . . call them, visit them, email them, write letters to them. you don't need an application to managed personal relationships.

If it was this simple than Facebook would never have caught on in the first place. The answer isn't "rollback" because clearly there is some value here. The answer is finding out how to maximize that value to our lives, not maximize the payout for investors.

The main thing Facebook provides that isn't addressable with the systems we'd be left with in a "rollback" is a universal way to stay linked to other people that provides both people with control over whether that link exists or not. Everything else is just features glommed on top of that basic feature.

AFAICT there are only two ways to provide that basic feature:

(!) A centralized service like Facebook that manages the identity network. Any centralized organization is most likely ultimately going to exploit the fact that they own the network for their own gain, financial or otherwise.


(2) A decentralized service based on the similar cryptographic math as bitcoin, where every user gets one token representing their identity, and some sort of way to propagate changes to their identity signed by that token to everyone they are connected to and this needs to be accomplished in such a way that you can always re-establish the links to your friends in the network to be able to sync data.

I can't even begin to imagine how you'd develop the latter into a form that would be usable and therefore adoptable by the average person.

I am still trying to work out why something approximating (2) can't be done through a simple combination of:

- tried-and-tested public key cryptography techniques

- using e-mail as a buffered delivery mechanism (everyone has an e-mail account that can store plenty of messages until they're next on-line)

- borrowing the typical DVCS copy-the-whole-repo approach so you've got distributed back-ups

- writing a native client for whichever platforms you wanted to support.

If someone wants to make money off it, come up with a neat physical way to connect something personal but memorable to keys of sufficient complexity to encrypt everything robustly: mobile app, USB device, whatever.

The only obvious limitation is physical bandwidth and storage capacity, which would make copy-the-whole-repo unsustainable if people kept sharing lots of photos/multimedia content but their friends don't want to "download" all of it. How much this will matter as data storage and communication network capacity increases is anyone's guess.

In the meantime, if you were willing to accept a delay you could have a request/reply system to fetch larger items, or someone could charge a modest sum of real money to people who want to use an actual centralised escrow-like system that is always available to their friends even when they're not on-line. The system doesn't need to be able to see into any content, just to act as a more real-time substitute for the default buffered transmission via e-mail.

Hi, I'm actually in the process of designing such a system, with the goal of maximizing privacy, sovereignty, decentralization, and overall empowerment (not to mention destroying the facebook spying machine). If you'd like to help out with ideas and brainstorming, please do email me at bash.vcs [squigllydoo [SHIFT+TWO]] <google's mail service> . com. I already have some ideas for unique features that will set this apart from other similarly oriented efforts in a significant way. I'm getting close to starting up a mailing list and code repository, so please be in touch if you're at all interested. I'll keep you filled in.

PS it will be completely F/OSS, most likely GPL depending on contributor consensus.

Hi, I'm actually in the process of designing such a system, with the goal of maximizing privacy, sovereignty, decentralization, and overall empowerment (not to mention destroying the facebook spying machine). If you'd like to help out with ideas and brainstorming, please do email me at bash.vcs [squigllydoo [SHIFT+TWO]] <google's mail service> . com. I already have some ideas for unique features that will set this apart from other similarly oriented efforts in a significant way. I'm getting close to starting up a mailing list and code repository, so please be in touch if you're at all interested. I'll keep you filled in.

But yeah, you've hit the nail right on the head. Obviously, my will fall into your (2) category, so we've got some major usability and cryptographic hurdles to tackle. But please rest assured that the solutions exist and that I've got most of them hammered out in my mind - the rest just require a little brainstorming and puzzle solving.

PS it will be completely F/OSS, most likely GPL depending on contributor consensus.

Why will you succeed where so many others have failed?

I have unique ideas for solutions to unsolved problems. I plan to use a painless and ubiquitous deployment platform, as well as an unparalleled level of decentralization (not federation where you're still a slave to the pod operator who can still sell you out) and sovereignty. I plan on publishing essays of my ideas as proposals on a site in the near future when I get around to doing so. I can keep you filled in if you're interested in contributing. (it'll all likely be GPLd.)

I guess the FB cookies in your browser is a simplified version of the token. It's used to identify you not only on FB but also on other sites that load their javascript for comments & likes. There was some anger a while back about how fb could track you with cookies even if you're logged out - due to the ubiquity of their js on the web.

You are describing (1) a cellphone network and (2) a cellphone number.

The rest is overthink.

I forgot one detail. They don't just provide the links, but a way of discovering the link via other unique identifiers, some of which are confirmed. e.g. email addresses and phone numbers.

With #2 you'd still need trusted sources that can verify that a person i found via johndoe@acme.com or +1 (914) 555-1212 is in fact the owner of that email or phone number.

Number 2 is very interesting. I don't know either how it would work, but Bitcoin proves that intelligent stuff in this direction can be done and have some success

>> "you don't need an application to managed personal relationships"

You do when you're keeping in touch with friends you've made throughout your life and not just your current ones. That's the thing Facebook makes easy.

Also email and writing letters don't really work. If I sent a letter to a friend I seriously doubt they would bother responding, and most people I know personally don't use email. They use Facebook. That's the big problem - Facebook has replaced email for a lot of people making it one of the only ways (besides visiting/calling) to contact them.

> You do when you're keeping in touch with friends you've made throughout your life and not just your current ones.

Your friends are the current ones. Those other people aren't friends anymore, they're acquaintances, people you used to know but don't see anymore. Friend isn't a permanent status, it's the people you hang out with and see on a regular basis. If your only contact with a person is through facebook, they aren't your friends.

You know what? You don't get to decide who people's friends are. 30 years ago people had all kinds of friends they only got to communicate with on the phone and through letters. Non-face-to-face friendships (and romantic relationships) have existed since we had semi-reliable postal services. People happen to find things like Twitter & Facebook really helpful in this regard.

I'm not telling anyone who their friends are, I'm telling you you're using the English language sloppily if everyone in your Facebook you really consider a "friend". You've devalued the word to nearly meaninglessness. Everyone you've ever met is not your friend. Everyone you've had a friendly conversation with and looked up on Facebook is not your friend.

This is a ridiculous argument. There are plenty of people I see every day that I would consider, at best, an acquaintance. There is also a very small group of people that I see maybe once or twice a year that I would consider friends.

Your definition of friendship is outrageously shallow and is contrary to any other definition I have heard.

Agree. My best friend is moving to another state, 16 hours away. I skypechat with him on a daily basis, and he knows me like a brother. I haven't "seen" him in over two years, and when I joked that he was going to leave town without saying goodbye, he said "what will be different?"

He was right, nothing is different. It's like friends back in the 1800s exchanging letters. Doesn't mean that our friendship is less because we don't go out on Fridays and pound down a few pints.

In contrast, the people I work with, I spend far more time with, and interact directly with more frequently than my friend. Yet I wouldn't consider any of them friends.

Thank you. I for one am tired of seeing the "People you only interact with online are not friends" canard. Relationships don't work that way.

> There are plenty of people I see every day that I would consider, at best, an acquaintance.

Ditto, where did I say seeing someone every day made them a friend? If it's this "it's the people you hang out with and see on a regular basis" that wasn't meant to qualify everyone you see daily as a friend.

> There is also a very small group of people that I see maybe once or twice a year that I would consider friends.

But you see them, which is my point. If your only contact with them is on Facebook, and losing Facebook would end your contact with them; they aren't your friends.

> Your definition of friendship is outrageously shallow and is contrary to any other definition I have heard.

I don't think you've understand what I'm saying well enough to say what my definition is since you've gotten it so clearly wrong.

I'm sorry but you're moving the goal posts here.

>Friend isn't a permanent status, it's the people you hang out with and see on a regular basis.

In my post where I say "maybe once or twice a year" I am saying precisely that I do NOT see them on a regular basis.

It is not that I don't understand what you're saying, it is that you're not saying what you mean correctly.

Which I've already clarified as well as described several different ways, you're just being pedantic.

What makes you think that some of us don't use facebook in a different way to you, and only 'friend' actual friends?

It's you that's devalued the word IMHO, if you are codifying a 'friend' relationship with everyone you've ever met.

That's highly subjective. For example, if I moved abroad the people I hung out with regularly before would still be 'friends' to me. I would still care about what's happening in their lives and Facebook is a great way to continue that relationship. To me a friend is someone, not related, that I care about. Not someone that I hang out with regularly.

I'm not sure how these semantic distinctions affect the argument.

Replace the "friends" in his original post with "acquaintances," and his point stands.

Facebook is useful as a long term rolodex.

> Replace the "friends" in his original post with "acquaintances," and his point stands.

That's changing the argument, those words mean totally different things. My point is, Facebook makes keeping in touch with acquaintances easy, but isn't necessary to keep in touch with actual friends. Friends are people you see outside of Facebook.

For less introverted people, "friend" and "acquaintance" are more-or-less synonymous. See why Facebook chose the word "friend" now? (I agree with your assessment of course, I consider them very different. My best friend doesn't even have Facebook, I only succumbed a few months ago...)

> For less introverted people, "friend" and "acquaintance" are more-or-less synonymous.

Ask any of those less introverted people to name someone who's an acquaintance but not a friend, I bet they come up with a name showing that when pressed, they can make the distinction and do have different meanings for those words.

I do not believe there are people who cannot make that distinction.

> That's changing the argument, those words mean totally different things.

Sure, you're concerned he was using "friends" too loosely. I'm saying you should give him a pass. It's of course up to you.


And who says nerds don't understand other people?

Facebook gave you the problem that you didn't have before Facebook.

Facebook has monetized the hardship of letting friendships go. People change, shit happens, and you have to move on. Facebook, however, makes us believe we can keep these relationships going forever. I'm sure there are many successful reconnection stories, but I bet there are magnitudes more 'talked for a few days after not seeing each other for a few years, and that was that' stories.

That's not to say there isn't value in that. I've been really happy to connect with old acquaintances over just a message or two. I don't really want much more contact than that.

I agree with you, but there's another issue here: some of your friends may not actually respond to email messages. Personally, I'm a fan of email and letter writing (and not a fan of the phone), but I've fallen out of touch with several friends because if you don't contact them via Facebook or Twitter (I do neither), you won't hear back from them.

Another thing email doesn't do well: the idea of "I have something to say, but passively". Maybe you want to announce a change in your life, or a party, or some thought that you had. It's far less annoying to put it on Facebook where your friends can digest it (or not) at their leisure, rather than in an email demanding to be read.

"Hey, what's your new address?"

"I emailed it to you, go search through your messages"


"Check my Facebook profile"

The only problem I see with your email sentence is that some clients lack a decent search functionality.

Some improvements and it would IMHO be as easy, if not easier, as opening Facebook, trying to find a contact and fight against the timeline to find the information you are looking for.

I think the party part is a bit of personal choice. If I run a party I want to notify $foo people. And $foo is always a smaller number than my Facebook "friends". I just prefer the ability to select people and only tell them what I want to say without creating tons of groups for everything.

This might be locale-specific, but there's a lot of times I'm notified of a party/get-together via a Facebook post saying "I'll be down at $taphouse tonight at 9, feel free to stop by!" That's a very passive invite, and Facebook (or Twitter or G+ et al) is perfect for that.

I get what you are saying. The one good thing about Facebook is that it took a lot of that fluff out of my inbox. But could I not have learnt to manage/gloss over it?

The thing that Facebook does well - is tracking down contacts - to add to your 'address book.' It's not so easy in the world of email. That's because we aren't publishing our address books publicly (probably for good reason.)

You're missing the point -- those people aren't your friends anyway. The fact that you can "like" a picture of someone's kid or say happy birthday on their Wall doesn't change that fact.

Facebook can be a great tool for sharing photos and other things with your friends. But most of what is actually happening on Facebook is voyeurism -- you get to stalk people whom you sort of know.

I know hating FB is all the rage (and sometimes well deserved) but you're attributing your feelings about FB to all the users. Failbook.com isn't indicative of all the FB users.

Do you need phones to manage personal relationships? What about a postal service? What about automobiles? Of course not. I could choose to only maintain relationships with people within walking distance of my home, but I prefer using technology to facilitate communication over longer distances.

How do I find their email address, tho? :P

You join!

I'm already at the point where I want to jump ship; I just can't figure out how to do it without losing contact with my friends.

I'm in the exact same boat, but I decided that the risk of losing contact with a few people I don't talk to often is worth it at this point. I've spent the last few days making sure everyone has my email address, phone number and google+ and will be deleting my account in about a weeks time.

There are many reasons why I am deleting my account, this issue (and their response to it) are just the latest problems that finally pushed me over the edge.

Jumping ship was easy for me. I catch-up with my local friends in person at a local bar or cafe. I catch-up with my remote friends by traveling to their city and going to a bar or cafe there. Or they come visit me. It's infinity more satisfying and relaxing that consuming status updates containing skewed and filtered representations of someone's life.

Same here. It occurred to me at some point that while I had a fairly large group of "friends" on Facebook, there were only 10-15 people that I really actually cared about.

And those are people that I communicate with on a regular basis outside of Facebook, either by hanging out with them in person, or phone/email for the ones who have moved away. So there's no love lost with them by ditching Facebook.

That leaves the group of people that I knew from college and high school, but had nothing else in common so we lost touch until Facebook came around. I graduated from college 5 years before joining Facebook, and looking back I don't feel like my life was any worse off in those intervening years because I didn't have those people on an e-friends list.

As far as visiting all my remote friends or them visiting me (somewhat often)... that's easier said then done for me and I bet most people.

You're right it's not always easy. I often wonder about how the perceived convenience of visiting someone varies with the strength of the friendship. I think they vary directly. For example I have no problem fighting through rush hour traffic when I'm on my way to seeing a friend who I'm looking forward to seeing.

Yeah, it's difficult enough when you are neighbours! (Sad but true.) That's not to say that we can't try harder.

consuming status updates containing skewed and filtered representations of someone's life.

I much prefer skewed and filtered representations of my friends.

It's much easier to interact with a caricatured, mean-field average of my 900 or so Facebook friends (aka "the audience") than to do it (shudder) one-on-one.

Is it not preferable to have more meaningful, personal interactions with a smaller group of people?

Good point. When you're dreading interacting with someone one-on-one they're probably not a true friend. So perhaps fb is good for maintaining acquaintances rather than actual friendships.

Yes, I was attempting (perhaps unsuccessfully) to be ironic.

Facebook's apps will no longer be on any of my mobile devices. They've proven that I can't trust them without a browser sandbox between me and them.

I'd say 'me too,' but I can't actually delete their app from my Sprint Evo.

Well played, Facebook. Well played.

Settings > Accounts > (select facebook account) > Remove account

Settings > Applications > Manage Applications > All > Facebook > Clear data & Clear cache

For me, that just clears the data the application uses, not the app itself.

The steps will disable facebook. Unless you're on ICS or rooted, there's nothing else you can do (except perhaps install a launcher that lets you hide apps--out of sight/out of mind).

There were several reasons that I rooted my EVO but that was a big one. http://unrevoked.com/#evo

I hope iOS doesn't force a FB profile with iOS 6.

Agreed, blaming the users for the company's own problem is disgusting.

I remember that comic by the way, I have it saved from a calendar somewhere. :P

Clicking the little gray up arrow does not signify enough how much I agree with this sentiment.

I think that Dilbert cartoon is very apropos. Facebook employees seem to treat their site as one big Skinner box and they're trying to see how far they can go.

Well said. Talk about a lack of respect for the customer.

To be fair, users aren't Facebook's customers.

You're right. I meant users. Thanks!

>> I'm already primed to leave. I'm just waiting on the right opportunity to come along.

How many opportunities is it going to take?

Just try it out for awhile, I consider it pretty low-risk. "Deactivate" your account, it will still be there if you change your mind. I left two years ago, I don't miss it, and my relationships haven't suffered.

Use the yahoo contacts exporter and get out while you still can, NOW.

I think Facebook is a great company, but their message system needs a bit of work.

Last year I was at their HQ and one of the engineers was working with someone I knew on some code. The engineer said "send me a message on Facebook". So the guy sends it, and then the FB engineer said "I don't see it -- are you sure you sent it?" It took a few minutes before we all realized it had gone into the "other" section of the messages on Facebook. Not only that, but there were about 70 unread messages in there. We all laughed over the fact that even someone who writes a lot of the FB codebase didn't know those messages were there.

Facebook needs to dogfood their own stuff. I remember reading about how they use IRC internally. Very cool, but it makes you wonder why they don't use facebook messages for everything.

Yahoo didn't even use Yahoo! Mail which is much much much better than Facebook Messages. It was mainly because a lot of people were comfortable with Exchange and the Calendar integration. They tried Zimbra without success.

At least they use Yahoo! Messenger internally.

During my time there a lot of the Engineers used Google Search, and a local Jabber install for IM because Y! Messenger was that ad-filled and painful to use.

(Maybe my experience was limited to a pocket within Yahoo!)

Yes, by Yahoo! Messenger I just meant the protocol and servers. I used Adium, personally.

I also used Google Search though I would try Yahoo! search every couple months. I don't believe the search engine is that much worse but I'd become accustomed to searching Google and understanding the results.

It seems that Facebook and IRC seem to be well suited for very different kinds of communications. There's no reason that you can't use both.

Facebook messaging has group conversations that can mostly be used like IRC channels. I expect the primary reason that IRC is used is that Facebook's IM service was completely unable to reliably deliver messages for most of 2011.

If your messaging system goes down, that's a bad time to learn your team became reliant on that messaging system and is now unable to coordinate to fix it. Same reason system status pages shouldn't be hosted on the systems they support, so you don't lose them when you need them most.

Alternatively, it makes outages that much more painful. Also, for stuff like "external mails go to the other folder", usability issues wouldn't go unnoticed.

Stories like that make PR like this so much more insulting.

> “By default, messages from friends or friends of friends go into your Inbox. Everything else goes to your Other folder

So, your email service works in this way that's completely unlike every other email service in existence (where all messages go to the inbox unless you tell them otherwise), and it's the users' fault for not understanding it?

I think a quick fix that would resolve the "emails from work" scenario would be to include messages from people in your network (assuming your workplace has a FB network).

Though if you're in a network for, say, the city you live in (imo silly to do this) then my 'fix' would become rather annoying unless the user was able to designate what networks go to Inbox and which go to Other. But then that just seems a little messy and overly complicated :)

Facebook knows most users don't want another email account that is just going to get filled with spam. So how does Facebook deal with spam? Simple, it puts it into your Others folder.

Otherwise you get users complaining about spam in their messages.

Most users didn't want another email account period. They certainly didn't want Facebook to make that decision for them.

It doesn't sound like "Other" was meant to be a spam folder. If that's the case why didn't they just call it "Spam" and install a spam filter to send mail there?

To clarify, what I meant was the Others folder is just their way of preventing Facebook Users from getting spam in their "Messages" page. Since no one really checks their Others folder, you don't get any spam. The side effect though is that the Others section _may_ have important messages, but Facebook can't risk having spam invade the "Messages" page.

Also if you name the folder Spam, you're acknowledging that the Facebook system can have spam, which is probably something Facebook doesn't want.

They do have a spam filter, and it sends items to Other.

It is not a spam filter. I just checked my "Other" after days and found a mail that was not spam but from a old friend that I had not accepted as a friend yet. It is not 'detecting' spam but marking everything not-from-facebook as unimportant.

Because anything not from someone in my Facebook friends list is spam?

Jesus, why didn't any of these anti-spam devices, programs, companies, etc think of it! We'll just make a per user white list and be done with it!

Oh wait, that's a horrible idea, and you should feel bad.

I have no idea what you're actually referring to.

I never said everything in the Other page is spam. I am saying they decided to dump any message that isn't your friend or (friend of friend) into the Others page, which solved for them problem of users seeing "spam" in their Messages page but created other problems.

You may never say that everything in the Other page is spam, but if you present moving all messages not from friends into a folder called Other to solve the spam problem...

Either you're going to have a horrible false positive rate or a horrible false negative rate, because sender email address is a really poor feature to determine spam from ham.

Tip: If your new, undocumented system confuses the majority of your users, then it's not a problem with your users!

At this point I think it should be obvious to Facebook that they are building and marketing a system that its users just don't want.

Absolutely. Users should demand their money back, too.

I realise you're being sarcastic, but I wish I could get my time back from Facebook.

I'm not saying that non-paying users have a right to expect certain features or not. I'm saying that Facebook is wasting their resources and creating features that users won't use at best, or will drive them away at worst.

Ok, so in turn I would blame the "User Confusion" on Facebook's decision to change everyone's public facing email address (without warning or consent) which then pushed the email into a system many of the users have never even touched.

(and perhaps a poorly designed email system though I haven't used it so I can't say personally)

I've never heard of the 'other' folder before. So I go look for it and find a message from an old college friend getting back in touch. From 10 months ago. Thanks FB.

Wow, I just checked mine and I also had messages that I completely missed from people that I would have like to have been notified about. Just peachy.

Same here. We are supposed to be the tech savvy crowd, so I dare say that if that happens to us you can safely say there is a big usability problem there.

Just a little notification along the lines of "You have x unread messages in your 'other' folder", perhaps only once a week, would have gone a long way in solving this.

Mine had someone trying to hire my band. From February. Argh.

I think that a big part of this problem is that Apple played along. If I am understanding this correctly, the bigger issue here is that people's phonebooks are getting updated without consent (as opposed to the bigger issue being a different email being displayed on fb.com) and that this was only possible with Apple's involvement? Correct me if I'm wrong please.

I think it's also worth noting that I have had no issues on Windows Phone. I don't remember how contacts work on Android (never owned an iPhone) but on Windows Phone, it displays ALL of their emails. So the UI would look something like this:

John Smith

-Call John

-Text John

-Email John (john@gmail.com)

-Email John (john@college.edu)

-Email John (john@facebook.com)

So while it's true that if I only have a contact's details through Facebook Connect that I will only have their Faceobook email, is that really so common? Most people (even from Work - indeed ESPECIALLY from work) that I email from my phone I have as a PHONE contact. Even if I have the phone's contact linked with the FB contact, it will display both emails. And if I'm emailing someone from work and I don't have them on my phone then I usually look them up through Exchange rather than Facebook...

Just my $0.02. Not trying to say that this is not an issue, just trying to show how:

1. Apple seems largely to blame? (correct me if I'm wrong)

2. The way UI works on my phone makes this mostly a non-issue and I'm curious as to how other phones handle "multiple emails per contacts". I'd imagine it's rather similar.

Facebook actually syncs phone numbers, email addresses etc. to your iPhone. So if a user's email gets hidden, it looks like they've deleted that email from their profile, so the FB app would delete it from your address book assuming that it's no longer up-to-date.

> the bigger issue here is that people's phonebooks are getting updated without consent

Do you want to get a notification every time someone updates their email? Or do you want the emails your phone knows for people to just automatically stay up to date on their own?

Facebook seems to be losing sight of what people want to use them for: snooping on their friends. ;) I wonder what the MVP of a Facebook de-throner would be. Google+ showed pretty well it wasn't about fighting them head-on. Instagram was making pretty good progress in an oblique fashion. What other directions could you come at this problem from?

IMO the competing MVP is Twitter stripped down as much as possible. When I consume my Twitter feed about 50% of all Tweets have a photos or video. So the consumption process is scroll, read just a bit, watch or view something and repeat. For me that pattern is a pleasant experience. Stuff can be removed. The MySpace like backgrounds to start. Thinking big: remove or tone down mentions and hash tags since IMO they're visually distracting. Point is to make a list-based product where people consume photos and videos from a lightly filtered group of peers as easily as possible.

Well, LinkedIn already has the professional identity market locked down, so an entrant would probably want to focus on personal/private identity.

One approach would be something targeted at dating and meeting people who share your preferred activities, while letting you manage how much of your real identity you want to reveal. Think Second Life meets FourSquare, with avatars, pseudonyms and various exaggerated expressions of individuality.

Another approach would be something for sharing information privately with a group of existing friends, building group identity. Think private clubhouse.

The articles headline quotes "confusion", implying to me that Facebook used that word in their explanation. But the quote given in the article ("That is likely...") doesn't use the word "confusion"--and in fact, is a lot less incendiary.

While the direct quote attributed to Facebook's rep doesn't include the word confusion, an earlier reference to Facebook's response to RWW does:

But a Facebook spokesperson said the missing messages may stem from confusion over how Facebook’s mail system categorizes messages

So? The outcome is the same - users are confused due to the poor integration of Facebook email!

And they wonder why no one wanted to use it in 2010.

For my 86 year old mother Facebook has been a boon and a great confusion. She keeps asking me about how people send her messages. There's email. There's Facebook Messages. There's her Facebook "wall". Then other people's statuses show up on her news feed or whatever you call her "home" page. She thinks those are also messages sent to her. It's a bit much. We think we have this straight because we work with all these things. But, Great Grunt, it can be hard for the uninitiated to figure out. Thankfully, no one has talked her into having a Twitter account or a smart phone with SMS and a few dozen social apps.

So I went to see if I had an "Other" folder, and yes, filed with brands spam and ... "important" messages from real people, some from more than a year ago.

Baffled, I never noticed its existence !

This and the fact that my FB homepage (stream ?) is somehow useless nowadays, I don't see a great future with Facebook.

"Don't make the mistake of thinking you're Facebook's customer, you're not – you're the product," Schneier said. "Its customers are the advertisers."


Nothing is a cheaper move from a company than blaming the user for not getting the questionable decision. Take some responsibility for your decisions both positive and negative.

They're just buying time, PR-wise, until they come up with a good explanation, which they don't have yet. There will be meta-controversy over blaming the users, after which FB will come out with new and improved interface signalling, documentation, and a non-apology.

They were probably not holding it right!

If every user makes the same error, it isn't user error...

This is almost the contrapositive to "it's not a bug, it's a feature!"

Argh - are there any Facebook users who aren't annoyed by this change? Come on Facebook - admit you were wrong already.

I can almost picture how this started. Zuck: "I'm tired of having to leave facebook to read my emails. Make them show up in my message feed. In fact, do that for everyone. I don't care how, just take their username and add facebook.com to the end."

Did Facbook just add email addresses to people's address books, or did they also delete other email addresses from address books as well? I'm wondering if data loss from the perspective of lost contact info occurred here or not.

Wow, I didn't even know that there was an "other" folder there.

I hope some of the open source projects will be successful at building a self-owned social network. In all reality, you don't need massive server farms for facebook, what you do need them for is to crunch your specific profile and determine how best you can be cultivated for the most juicy marketing fruit. The relationship between user and facebook is about as real as the love of a slave driver for his slaves.

At what point can one consider Facebook to be malware?

The minute you delete your account.

Until then you're just complaining about a product you refuse to stop using.

The worst thing about Facebook is that you probably have contacts that don't appreciate the severity of a lot of Facebook's moves. So you keep the account because the communication is nicely convenient.

Thus you continue to use it, given several alternatives, as the best of a bad bunch (because no-one uses the others).

This never bodes well.

Is there a way to remove any mail aspect of FB? I looked at this "Other" folder today for the first time, and the only two mails in there were replies to spam messages I'm supposed to have sent. I see zero benefit in having a Facebook email address. I want to give it back.

The user "confusion" was caused by Facebook's actions, and the blowback is the only non-confused element; people don't like having things like that altered out from under them. It makes them "confused, or angry or litigious.

Not anymore.

Facebook's e-mail debacle: One 'bug' fix, but rollback impossible


I was going to shrug at this until I looked and saw messages from individuals personally reaching out to me including from a startup incubator.

That was a slap in the face. Thanks for absolutely nothing Facebook.

Skynet is here

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