Imagine if you were to find out that every Walmart shopper had a telephone number automatically assigned to them, or that everyone who has ever eaten at McDonald’s was allocated their own P.O. Box to receive postal mail. Those prospects are no more remote or surprising to many Facebook users than the site’s recent move to display a email account instead of the primary email that the user provided upon signup.

Not only is the email account not selectable by the user, defaulting to the vanity URL name if one has been created or just an abstract number if not, but most of these social network users may not even have been aware that they had a account… and wouldn’t know how to access it even if they did. The “email slam” that Facebook has recently foisted on its hundreds of millions of users is just the latest example of the astonishingly cavalier manner the leading social network chooses to treat its loyal followers.

Facebook Email Accounts Are Widely Ignored

When Facebook introduced its email service two years ago it was hyped as having the potential to become the number one email service in the world. After all, with nearly one billion people having a Facebook account, it would follow that they would naturally gravitate to an email service that is seamlessly integrated into their preferred social network. Instead the service was widely ignored for various reasons:

  • It’s not really email – Facebook Messages integrate with email, so whenever you receive an email into your account it is posted into Facebook Messages so that you can see the entire thread of back and forth emails as a single conversation, ignoring separate emails with different subject lines. Although this was the social network’s specific intent, it has proven too confusing and disorienting to a generation accustomed to receiving standalone, clearly categorized email messages.
  • Autosort – Facebook’s email automatically sorts incoming email, placing any messages it deems come from “strangers” in a separate inbox that’s difficult to locate. Since the social network’s definition of what constitutes a stranger can vary from the user’s, this policy has caused considerable confusion.
  • Workplace blockage – After MySpace, Facebook is the most commonly blocked site on the entire internet, and since many users utilize their email accounts for both business and personal reasons, an email account becomes a non-starter.
  • The trust factor – Facebook is not exactly the most trusted name on the internet, as its various well-publicized skirmishes with privacy issues have created a very powerful sense of wariness among its millions of users. The redirection of the mass of email communication to the servers of the social network, much of which can contain extremely sensitive personal or business subject matter and content, poses a generally unattractive prospect for many Facebook users.

Users Swapped Out for a Deadbeat Email without Warning

While it is true that the email address can be removed from your Facebook profile and your standard email address re-established to appear there, this factor does not diminish the backlash from users who saw themselves suddenly presented with an email account by default that they neither asked for nor wanted. Facebook executives claim that they were just extending the ability for users to control what they show and hide on their timelines, but if this was truly their desire it would have seemed that providing a popup box informing users that they had a choice of what email account to display would have been a preferable approach to just going ahead and swapping out their email contact information for the deadbeat Facebook email address without as much as a warning.