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Facebook unveils 'next-gen' messaging system

'It's not email. It's everything'

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Facebook has unveiled a "next-generation" messaging system for its social networking–obsessed users.

After speaking with some high schoolers during a Thanksgiving trip a couple of years ago — who told him that they rarely used email because it was "too slow" — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg decided his social networking cum worldwide application platform needed a "modern" messaging system, one that's "seamless," "immediate," "personal," and "simple."

So he put his minions to work.

Today, more than a year later, Zuckerberg took the wraps off Facebook's new messaging system at a press event in downtown San Francisco, saying it provides "seamless integration across all the different ways people communicate," a single conversation history, and a "social inbox" that sorts messages according to "what you want most." The system is not an email service. It spans email as well as IM, text messages, and on-Facebook messages.

"The idea was that we would take conversation across all different mediums and weave them together," said Facebook director of engineering Andrew Bosworth. "The system is definitely not email." Bosworth — known as Boz — said that the service was modeled after chat. That said, as part of the service, Facebook is offering all users their own @facebook.com email address.

In essence, the company is integrating email with an on-Facebook real-time messaging setup. The system is built on Hbase, the Hadoop-y open source incarnation of Google's BigTable distributed database.

Prior to the event, the rumor was that Facebook would roll-out it's own email service — a kind of "Gmail killer" — and that it would somehow hook into Microsoft's online Office apps. "This is not an email killer," Zuckerberg said. "This is a messaging system that uses email as one part of it."

Zuckerberg said the system will be rolled out to Facebook users over the coming months. ®

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