Using Messages isn’t that much different from using Facebook’s previous private messages feature. New messages are highlighted on and accessed from the Messages button on the Facebook toolbar. If you supplied your mobile phone number, you’ll also be notified of new messages (including wall postings) via text messaging. This feature can be disabled, however, if you find this kind of thing annoying.
Figure 1 New messages are highlighted on the Messages button on the Facebook toolbar.
You open the Messages page itself by clicking Messages in the sidebar on your Facebook home page. This page displays all the messages and communications you’ve received across the Facebook site. Messages are listed in reverse chronological order, newest first. There’s no distinction for type of message; emails look the same as private messages or chat sessions. Unread messages are shaded in blue.
Figure 2 Facebook’s new Messages page; all communications are listed, no matter the type.
Not all messages are displayed on the main Messages page, however. Click Other in the Messages section of the sidebar to display email messages sent from non-Facebook members, as well as messages and invitations from fan pages to which you’ve subscribed.
Back on the Messages page, click a message to view that message. The resulting page lists all messages to and from that person, in the form of a flowing conversation. On this page, the newest messages are at the bottom.
Figure 3 Viewing messages to and from a specific friend.
The type of message sent or received is indicated by an icon on the far right side of the message list, beside the time/date indicator. An envelope icon indicates an email message; a word balloon icon indicates a chat or instant message; a phone icon indicates a text message; and no icon means you got a private message from a Facebook friend.
To send another message to this person, simply enter your message into the text box at the bottom of the page. That’s pretty easy.
It’s just as easy to send any new message. On the Messages page, click the New Message button; this displays the New Message dialog box. Enter the Facebook name or non-Facebook email address of the recipient into the To box, then enter your message into the Message box. Click the paperclip icon to attach a file, or the camera item to take and attach a picture or video. Press enter or click the Send button to send the message on its way.
Figure 4 Sending a new message via Facebook Messages.
By default, messages are sent via Facebook’s messaging system or via normal email, for non-Facebook recipients. If you’d rather the recipient also receive the message on his or her mobile phone, check the Also Send as Text Message option before you send it on its way.
And that’s the way Messages work. The intent is to make the type of message relatively transparent; it’s the message itself that’s paramount. I think Messages achieves this, although it’s going to take a bit of getting used to for some usersand I’m not sure that Facebook’s relatively Spartan email functionality will ever replace feature-rich traditional email. It’s a new way of doing things, designed specifically for the social networking environment.