How well can the new Facebook Messages interact with other email services? Pretty much not at all, Facebook told me. You can export some addresses, and you can forward email into Facebook, but that’s about it.
I spoke with Facebook’s director of engineering Andrew Bosworth after today’s Facebook press conference about the new Facebook Messaging system, which will include the ability to email people outside of Facebook.
No, it doesn’t support POP or IMAP systems, which could let you unify email from other accounts you might have into Facebook. Maybe that will come, but there are no immediate plans.
Yes, you can forward email from other accounts you might have, such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail or Hotmail. However, these won’t be filtered in any special way. Facebook won’t be able to tell they’re from one of your friends, if they come into the system from outside Facebook.
Want to export your contacts? Yes, you’ll be able to do that using the Facebook export tool. You’ll get a list of your friends, along with their new facebook.com email addresses, if they’ve chosen to take one. If they haven’t, you won’t get any email from them at all.
Facebook already allows exporting of email addresses from your friends, but not through its export tool. Instead, you have to do it through Yahoo or Hotmail. That’s likely to continue, Bosworth said.
Bottom line in the entire Google-Facebook export debate that exploded last week? Good news for Google, in that it will finally have a way for people to export contacts and reach out to them from within Google, if they want. Even if they’re reaching out using facebook.com addresses, it’s more than Facebook allows Google now.
Then again, it’s bad news in the sense that if you could export your friends’ “real emails,” then it would be easier for Google and others to create the type of “whitelist” service that Facebook is proposing.
For more about that dispute, the export tool and exporting, see my post from last week, Facebook: You’ve No Right To Export Email Addresses (Unless It’s To Yahoo & Microsoft). Also see The Register’s coverage on email exporting and Facebook from today.
Here’s a 3 minute video of my interview with Bosworth:
Postscript: Also see our expanded look at Facebook Messages, How The New Facebook Messages & Email System Works.