Facebook messaging is a lot like email and an online forum rolled into one interface. You can send your friends a message and they will all see it and each others replies to it – but what happens when you get added to a message you don’t want to be a part of?
I recently was part of a message thread with family when one of our family members used foul language in his reply – which went to everyone in the thread. Some of the more conservative members of the family were offended and hit the reply all button to say so… As you can imagine – the messages started flying back and forth about not being so easily offended and not being so offensive. Most of us just wanted to ‘opt out’ of the thread (even the person that started it).
Hitting the delete button removes it from your inbox – but a few minutes later and there is a new reply to the thread and its like you never clicked delete. You may think this is an issue that Facebook should solve (and you may be right) but its not as simple as you might think. Sending a message in facebook isn’t ‘like’ email – it is email. You can’t connect to your mail box with Outlook or Apple Mail – but its a simple mailbox just the same.
What does that mean, you might ask? Lets walk through it as an email – when you send an email to a bunch of people – they all get a copy in their inbox. You know that if you then delete your copy – their copy doesn’t get deleted, just your copy. If they hit reply to all – everyones name in the original message will get their reply – including you. You can’t ‘opt-out’ from your friends and family sending you email (and you likely don’t want to).
Now – back to a Facebook message – the same technical processes happen as when you send an email – only the user interface (Facebook’s website) shows your inbox to you in a manner that looks like an online forum. We call them ‘threads’ when in reality, its an email chain. The one big difference from Facebook and your email inbox – with your email program (gmail, outlook, hotmail, etc) you have the ability to remove people from an email before you hit send.
In Facebook – you can reply to a single person or to all – nothing in between. Which is the one thing facebook could fix easily – but then it becomes difficult to know if someones name was removed from a message and are no longer getting replies to all (this is the same with email). For example – you send an email to 10 people. When anyone hits reply to all, all 10 people get the email. But your friend Bob doesn’t like your friend Bill – so Bob removes Bill from his reply to all. Now only 9 people get Bob’s reply. When any of those nine people hit reply to all – Bill won’t get a copy because he isn’t in Bob’s message. Without looking at who is in the “to” field every time you send a message – you wouldn’t know when this occurred. I suspect this may be why facebook’s approach is to make their version of email more “user friendly”. In my experience, “user friendly” equals less functionality. Removing options makes it simple to use – but with less options!
I think I may have lost most of you by now – but I hope this has helped…