After criticism mounted of Facebook's tendency to opt users in to new features, the social media juggernaut is downplaying this week's addition of a Facebook.com e-mail address on Profiles -- whether people want them or not.
The company in November 2010 launched its upgraded e-mail system, giving each user a Facebook e-mail allowing messages not only to other users but to and from other providers and domains.
On Monday, users checking their Profiles found that the address that combines their designated username with Facebook.com was automatically listed, and if they had a different e-mail listed on their Profile, it had been hidden. Many users were quoted in the media, complaining.
'It's Your Call'
It's no big deal, a Facebook spokesman told us.
"As we announced back in April, we've been updating addresses on Facebook to make them consistent across our site," he said. "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."
Users could change it back through a series of steps: Clicking edit to change, selecting the desired e-mail with "show on Timeline" (or Profile if you haven't been Timelined yet), then selecting the Facebook e-mail as "hidden" and saving changes.
"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 we're
extending that to other information they post, starting with the Facebook
address," said the spokesman.
The latest Facebook controversy does not directly involve privacy issues, unlike the matters that have led the company to recently be sued for using Profile pictures in sponsored messages or investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for what it said were misleading privacy policies.
Any Facebook user could already contact other users, unless they block that feature, and the Facebook.com e-mail is only visible to those allowed to see a user's Profile.
But the attempt seems to be a way for Facebook to call attention to an underused e-mail domain it hopes can eventually take on Google's Gmail or AOL and encourage people to spend more time on the network . Sending a Facebook.com message to someone not on Facebook is also good for brand building.
"It looked like Facebook was past this type of behavior," said analyst Michael Gartenberg of Gartner . "While few consumers would likely have shifted their Profile to a Facebook e-mail address, this isn't the best way to get users on board. It's these type of actions that may ultimately cause consumer backlash to the service for consumers who are already showing signs of social network fatigue." (continued...)