In today’s edition of innocuous Facebook scandals, Ars Technica reports that the social network just up and changed
everybody’s many users’ default email address to their (probably forgotten-about) @facebook.com email address. Shocking, I know. Sometimes the truth is hard to handle.
Update: Some commenters have noted that their accounts have not yet been affected by the change. I’ve updated the language to reflect this — though it seems likely that the email change-up will be implemented across all accounts soon.
The change, first uncovered by hacker Gervase Markham, means that any email messages you received through Facebook since Friday have been routed back into the Facebook Messages inbox, rather than into your email inbox. Annoying? Perhaps. Something to get really angry about? Perhaps — maybe you were expecting some highly time sensitive email to come through Facebook. But for the most part, we’d guess that people are more shocked that they have an @facebook email address than the fact that Facebook pulled a switcharoo.
The fact that Facebook did this without asking its users what they want doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Facebook does this kind of stuff all the time. And even when it gives users fair warnings about changes, they still flip their lids, wig out, and have a bloody conniption all over the Web. In fact, Facebook did give users warning (kind of) — all the way back in April. At at least one member of the DT staff received an email on Friday noting the change, though my email setting was changed without notice.
Regardless of notification, the question remains: Why did Facebook make the change? Mike Isaac of AllThingsD seems to me to have the right answer: Facebook wants “to upset our existing communications systems and replace them with its own,” he writes. Or, as Forbes writer Kashmir Hill puts it, Facebook is attempting to “force its email service on you.”
According to Facebook, however, the change is all about choice. Here’s what a Facebook spokesperson told Reuters’ social media honcho Matthew Keys:
As we announced back in April, we’ve been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site.
In addition to everyone receiving an address, we’re also rolling out a new setting that gives people the choice to decide which addresses they want to show on their timelines.
Ever since the launch of timeline, people have had the ability to control what posts they want to show or hide on their own timelines, and today we’re extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook address.
Apparently Facebook realized that few users would willingly change their connected email address to an @facebook.com address unless they just did it for them, thus forcing users to actively switch back. Plus, by pushing the change on users, Facebook has successfully drummed up a scandal about which we in the tech press are all now writing.
So congratulations, Facebook. You’ve won again — by being a tactless jerk. Give yourself a pat on the back.