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Facebook (news, site) took another step to dominating how you and your friends interact online with the launch of its own email service.

Email Facing Off Again

How important is today's announcement in the world of social media? Well, the initial reaction was pretty impressive. Just news of Facebook's invite to today's event caused AOL to issue a press release on a Sunday afternoon to highlight some upcoming changes to its email service. Whatever its original plans, AOL was rather rattled by Facebook's move.

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For users though, with every new social service or feature hailed as a second coming, perhaps we're getting a little jaded. Still, it has been years since anything really interesting happened in the world of email and a good shake up every now and again can do no harm.

Not an Email Killer

At 10AM Pacific time, Facebook opened the doors on its new service, offering three features in a new messaging product that Mark Zuckerberg says "isn't an email killer, but a new product that won't replace your other services but will engage people because it is simpler, easier and more accessible."

It offers seamless messaging across all your different communication methods and devices. This includes email, SMS and IM but is not -- in itself -- an email service.

Users can have an @facebook.com address, but it's not essential, and it works across both messaging, chat and email. Whatever you're using at the time, the message will appear in the appropriate format.
 


Arrange your contacts in a social order that suits you

All of that text from any form of message appears in a single, seamless conversation history, negating the need for bouncing between email panes, pages and so on. An iPhone app will be available from today to help spread the message. 

Finally, there is the filtering system of a "social inbox" that ensures emails from your genuine contacts appear first. That will be the stuff you're interested in, and you can go off at your leisure to look at the other stuff that is less important. 

Your Forever Inbox

As with Gmail, you can keep those important messages forever, but this time all in one place. In development for over a year, there is a whole new storage and messaging system under the hood, built by Facebook's biggest engineering team for a single project. Features of this include the ability to bounce emails from people they don't want to communicate with.  

IMAP isn't working yet but will be available shortly. Advertising will appear on the page as normal, but is not based on specific content in a message. The service will roll out over the next few months to the global userbase, so expect an invite in your box soon.

Update: Facebook has just posted a blog update with some images.