Facebook is to ditch a messaging feature which put messages from strangers into a folder that many people didn’t know they had. The company says the new system includes checks to restrict spam or other unwanted approaches.
At the moment, messages from people who aren’t either your Facebook friend or a friend-of-a-friend don’t appear in your main inbox. Instead they get routed to a separate “Other” folder that many users don’t know about. The folder is only accessible on the website, meaning people running the Facebook app couldn’t see these messages even if they knew they existed.
The only exception was a short-lived experiment by which users could pay a dollar to have a message appear directly in a stranger’s inbox, something which didn’t catch on.
Under the new system, the Other folder is getting ditched. Instead three types of message will go through to the inbox as normal
- those from Facebook friends;
- those from people whose contact info you have on your phone (assuming you’ve synced your contacts to Facebook); and
- people you have already exchanged messages with before the new system takes effect.
All other messages instead get delivered as a “message request”. The first time you see a message from somebody new you can decide whether or not you want their messages to go straight through to the inbox in future. If you choose to ignore the message, the sender won’t get any alert of your decision. Facebook isn’t entirely clear about what happens next, though it appears the sender — and any future messages they send — will then be buried away in a message request archive unless and until you change your mind about reading their messages.
The benefit of the new setup is that it’s much less likely you’ll miss a worthwhile message because the person wasn’t connected with you and you either didn’t know about or had forgotten the Other folder.
It does have a couple of downsides though. Messages from friends-of-friends will no longer go straight to the inbox automatically, meaning they are treated exactly the same as messages from complete strangers.
The change also removes the ability of people who receive a lot of threatening or abusive messages to use the Other folder as a dumping ground that they never have to see. Now those users will have to view at least the opening words of one message from each sender before banishing them to “Ignore”, something that could be both time-consuming and disheartening.
Facebook also says that messages it identifies as spam will simply be deleted before they even get as far as a message request to the user. That’s fantastic in theory, but could be problematic with false positives.