Facebook: All your email belongs to us! (Inside of the walled garden... and do your recipients know that the Facebook ToS lets them do anything they want with your email?)
Back in May, when I wrote my "Facebook is a walled garden" post, I wrote this:
We've gone from the closed communities of email services to the complete openness of Internet e-mail and now seem to be returning back to those gated communities, with email/SMS helping keep us aware of updates.
I was talking at the time how Facebook let you only send messages to those within Facebook.
Well, today Facebook took an interesting step. As noted as in the Facebook blog, you can now send email to people on the outside who don't have Facebook accounts:
If you're like most people, you may have a few stubborn friends who haven't joined Facebook…yet. This can make reaching friends complicated—there are some friends you can send a Facebook message, and others you have to email. Not anymore. Now, when you're writing messages, you can send the message to people on Facebook, and to people not on Facebook.
Now you can enter a friend's email address into the To: line when you send a message or share an album, and Facebook will email them the message. Your friends will be able to reply without signing up, and they will be able to see content you share with them. Keep in mind that all rules of privacy still apply; some Facebook content that you share (photos, groups, notes, etc.) won't be visible to your friend.
It does work, as you can see in the screenshot below (click for a larger image):
The sending email address shown for my Facebook message is: "email@example.com". I can reply back and the reply winds up in my Facebook inbox.
On the one hand, I applaud Facebook for allowing communication to go out through the walls and come back in. However, two points:
1. You still can't forward messages from inside Facebook out to external recipients. Perhaps this is part of the whole "privacy" thing, but there are times when it would be great to get something from inside out to someone on the outside; and
2. Do your external recipients realize that anything they send in becomes the property of Facebook? The Facebook Terms of Service are still dated as of May 24th, and that's well before I posted my note/warning about all your content belonging to Facebook. Now I'm not sure what Facebook would realistically ever do with all the content... but I think it's fair to be sure that people on the outside realize that whatever they send in becomes the property of Facebook to do with it whatever they want (if they so chose).
The Facebook blog entry concluded with this:
As we continue to make Facebook more useful for everyone, these changes mean that there's no need to switch between Facebook and email for your daily communication needs.
Translation: Just use Facebook as your portal for everything. No need to go out to those pesky Gmail, Hotmail, AOL accounts...
Luke, a Facebook engineer, is never using email again. Ever.
But, of course, Luke is using email... just email inside of Facebook. We've gone from walled gardens of email to open standards and then back into walled gardens of email. Strange world we're in.