One of Facebook’s best-kept secrets is the “Other inbox.” This is the inbox where messages go if you aren’t friends with the person sending them.
While most of us are fine not seeing unwanted messages, there are plenty of stories about people getting a message from a long-lost friend or relative, and they never see it. In fact, we’ve had readers in our own audience find out they had important messages from years ago that they never saw. So it’s a good thing Facebook is finally killing the hidden inbox. What it’s doing instead, though, is just as interesting.
Facebook’s new system is called “Message Requests” and it allows someone you don’t know to send you a message. At first that sounds scary and intrusive, but Facebook has some smarts built into the system.
When you get a message from someone you don’t know, you’ll see a “Message Request” option appear in the Facebook Messages area or Facebook Messenger. Go into it to see what requests you have waiting.
You’ll get the message, along with background information about the person sending it. If you don’t want to reply to a person, just ignore or delete the message and Facebook makes sure you never hear from that person again.
However, if it’s someone you want to reply to, like a friend of a friend, a long-lost relative, a business contact you met briefly, someone saying they found your missing wallet, or a company reaching out about a customer service problem you posted, then you can reply. You can carry on a conversation with that person, but, most importantly, you don’t have to friend them or give them access to other personal contact information.
That makes it great for temporary acquaintances or situations. It also lets you reach out to people whom you might have met or know, but whose phone number you don’t have. Of course, there’s always the worry that spammers will use this system to flood people with requests that they then have to wade through.
To keep this from happening, Facebook is closely monitoring the accounts sending out messages. If it’s a newly created account with few friends, and it’s sending a lot of messages, Facebook won’t let them go through.
There’s also the concern about harassment from exes, ex-friends or stalkers. Facebook says if you delete the message of someone you don’t want to talk to, and they create a new account to send you another message, Facebook will block them.
In fact, Facebook keeps track of what kind of messages you respond to and which ones you don’t. Ones it doesn’t think you really want to see it filters out. You can still see them using the “See filtered requests” link.
Message Requests is currently rolling out to both the site and the Facebook Messenger app right now. You should see it soon.
On the Facebook site, look in the left column and click “Messages.” You can see if you still have the “Other” tab next to “Inbox.” If you don’t, then you have the new system and message requests will appear on the left when they come in. For the Facebook Messenger app, just open it and any message requests should appear at the top of the list.
What do you think about Facebook’s new system? Is it going to make life easier or just create problems? Let us know in the comments.