Since (if not before) its controversial IPO, Facebook seems to be on something of an unintentional campaign for its 900 million users to un-”like” it. If you checked your Facebook profile today, you would have found that your email address had been removed and changed to an @facebook.com one. Changing it back to whatever email you had originally is not difficult (Lifehacker explains what to do) but more than a few users may well have felt disconcerted, annoyed, imposed upon to find a change made to a personal piece of information without notice or explanation.
Facebook made the change “in an attempt to improve email address privacy,” says TechCrunch‘s Josh Constine while reviewing a bit of Facebook history:
In November 2010 Facebook announced its unified messaging product that lets you view Messages, Chats, and emails sent to new @facebook.com address all from the Messages inbox. Facebook let you sign up for a vanity email address then, and started notifying people it was assigning generic ones to everyone in April. Nowthat rollout has completed, so Facebook wanted to give people more control over the visibility of all their addresses so they added “shown” or “hidden from Timeline” controls to each listed email address.
Based on the fact that anyone can send you a message by hitting the message button, TechCrunch deduces that “Facebook probably figured it would be ok to default @facebook.com addresses to direct to the Messages inbox as ‘shown’ on Timeline.”
As commentary about the Facebook email “foul-up” suggests, Facebook figured very wrong.
Users, on finding their chosen email replaced with an @facebook.com one that many were not even aware they had, felt co-opted. Facebook now seems to have been “deviously trying to boost awareness of its proprietary email addresses that [Constine says he has] never heard of anyone using.” While removing the @facebook.com email from your profile requires only a few steps, users who did so found that the settings they had chosen had been changed as if by some unseen hand.
If you ever want to know what it feels like to have “Big Brother” tweeking things to his liking behind the scenes, Facebook’s mass, unannounced, unrequested, email change-up was that.
As to where emails sent to the @facebook.com email (that you didn’t know you have) go: They end up in what ZDNet‘s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols calls the “black hole of Facebook email.”
Vaughan-Nichols sums up the feelings of many about Facebook changing users’ emails: It is an “example of how little Facebook cares about its users” and of its tendency to treat users’ personal information as so many bits of data to do as it will with.
The email change-up is just one of a number of new Facebook features that have flopped. On Sunday, Facebook quietly introduced a feature that made it possible for users to find other Facebook users nearby, whether or not they were friends — and as of Monday, the “Find Friends Nearby” feature has been withdrawn. CNET‘s Josh Lowensohn says that Facebook removed the feature after another company, Friendthem — which shows users others nearby based on their physical location — pointed out that Facebook had stolen the idea from them. Charles Sankowich, Friendthem’s CEO, said that Facebook was “blatantly stealing” their idea and passing it off as “born at a hackathon as ‘Friendshake.’”
Facebook said that its introducing “Find Friends Nearby” on Sunday was a test and that is why it was so quickly removed.
But that makes two stumbles, two strikes, against Facebook in two days — and it’s not even Tuesday yet.
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