Facebook Just Stole Your Inbox

Pretty sneaky, Facebook (Nasdaq: FB  ) .

The social networking giant is ramming its email addresses down your throat. Forbes -- and then Lifehacker -- noticed yesterday that the email addresses featured on user profile pages had defaulted to the names that it began issuing two years ago when it let folks create their own vanity URLs.

Nobody seems to be using Facebook's awkward email platform, but now the company has a way of forcing the issue with as many as its more than 900 million registered users.

Facebook users can opt out of this, but they never opted in.

That could be a problem for Facebook, but for now it's probably more of an opportunity.

Free ad-supported email is a major part of the portal playbook. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has Gmail. Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) has Yahoo! Mail. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has Hotmail.

These dot-com giants have been cautiously watching Facebook's heady growth in recent years, and rightfully so. The more time that folks spend on Facebook, the less likely that they are to be found elsewhere. Why hit up Google for a roofer when a status update on Facebook can generate trusted leads for someone to repair your leaky roof? Yahoo!'s popular news and entertainment hub becomes less necessary when Facebook -- and Twitter -- are breaking all of the major headlines.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has a minority stake in Facebook and a healthy marketing relationship, but it also can't be happy with the sneaky ploy by the social networking juggernaut to get its email platform off the ground.

Monetizing email hasn't been easy for any company, but with Facebook promoting the vanity usernames as emails, Facebookers will now have one more inbox to sort through.

It will be interesting to see how users will react to the company's brazen move. Will they appreciate the reminder that they have a Facebook-tethered email that they can use to filter out spam? Or will they resent that their default emails have been changed without their consent?

My money's on the latter, leaving Facebook with a fair deal of explaining to do.

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The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft and Google, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 9:40 AM, Colin1497a wrote:

    It took less than 12 hours for my phone (Facebook Messenger app) to start getting hit with spam from my new email address, creating notification messages. The result? I uninstalled the messenger app.

    The messenger function previously had moderate value and I used it to keep in touch with a few friends who also used it. Now it has none. I can't disconnect the stupid email address and I don't need my phone popping up notifications at all hours providing me links to buy v!agra. Good job, idiots.

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 9:42 AM, gotspace wrote:

    Even a basic facebook user knows how to fix the email issue, it's rather simple. Just a short tease, your kids are using it, your friends, family, and most of the people that you would never think are using it. Facebook is here to stay, and you don't have to use it if you don't want to. It's a great place to find old friends that have moved away, or plan an event. That's right it will send out invitations electronically. Nothing new here, just a lot cooler. I sure hope you didn't invest in it, they have no product other than advertising, and if you use a smart phone, you don't see any of that :)

    Is it a wast of time? That is subjective to how much time you spend on the site, and for me, no it isn't.



  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 10:01 AM, TMFLouis wrote:

    Facebook has email?

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 10:06 AM, Colin1497a wrote:

    And a correction to the author: you can't really opt out. You can turn it off so that the information is not public (even though anyone who knows your facebook ID knows this email address), but you can't opt out. Anyone can still send you mail at the address and anyone can still harvest these (now) valid emails from facebook directly. I turned my email address off yesterday when I read the first article on this and still received the spam last night and was still able to send myself a message just now.

    The add/remove email addresses screen gives the following information:

    Facebook email:

    Your Facebook email is based on your public username. Email sent to this address goes to Facebook Messages.

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 10:13 AM, Colin1497a wrote:

    Last post: there is one thing you *can* do. Lock down your messenger so only friends or friends of friends can send you messages. This appears to be the only thing you can do that only removes marginal amounts of functionality...

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 11:28 AM, ourporch wrote:

    I like facebook for keeping connected with family and a "few" friends. Why would I want to sign up for a facebook email account in the first place? All my family and friends have my "real" email if they need to contact me by email. I keep facebook locked down as much as I can and still communicate with family. Maybe one of these days I will need to get rid of facebook and go back to email, or God forbid, call someone to tell them something. Until facebook gets so annoying that I drop them, it is a very useful tool. Just like everything else "free", it isn't really. As a side note, too many people and places I have "liked" seem to think being on facebook is a license to post everything that pops into your head. STOP IT. That includes you MF. Just post important things, not "What do you think about this" posts. I want solid investing info not what others like me think. Thankfully they have a "hide story" option, for now anyway.

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2012, at 6:06 PM, xetn wrote:

    I just resigned my FB account.

  • Report this Comment On June 27, 2012, at 12:15 AM, lowmaple wrote:

    I just never had a facebook account

  • Report this Comment On June 27, 2012, at 12:29 AM, Acesnyper wrote:

    Zuckerberg needs to make money after his IPO failed.

    I have never and never will have facebook, it's nothing more than a greedy scumbag out to sell you out to make him money.

    I know i've stated this to a fault but, again and again he's proven me right.

    Not only is he a failed scammer of people he's put a plagues on us saying "its ok to dump and steal info" that's going and currently being exploited by governments and other marketers.

    A free email account, you can get that anywhere or crack open your own for just a few dollars a year. When it comes to that it's not a .(prestige name here) a .facebook doesn't impress anyone.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2012, at 9:57 PM, rovobo wrote:

    I only reluctantly signed up with Facebook for my grandchildren's pix and messages. I don't enjoy being used however and I am getting out,FAST.Zuckerberg has out smarted himself and has caused a lot of animosity already. I hope his stock suffers for this move,too much MOXIE can be toxic.

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