There has been a mixed reaction to Facebook’s changes to its Messenger service, announced this week.
In the next few days it will phase out the Other inbox, where members currently receive messages from people they are not Facebook friends with.
Some members have expressed concern about harassment and spam gaining increased visibility.
Facebook users who run groups are also affected as they often communicate with group members who are not friends.
Once the phasing is complete, all messages from people outside of a member’s friend network will arrive as “requests” which the recipient can accept or reject.
The messages will however arrive automatically if the sender is not a Facebook friend but stored as a contact in the recipient’s mobile device – as long as the service is synced.
Many of the platform’s 1.5 billion users weren’t even aware of the extra inbox, which is currently only accessible by logging on to Facebook via a browser. At the end of 2014 there were over 200 million people actively using Messenger, Facebook said.
Rebecca Smith from St Albans in the UK is one of the owners of a group for British bloggers, which has over 3,000 members.
She said often members don’t see admin messages because they fall into the ‘other’ folder.
“We message everyone that requests to join. As it’s a group for UK bloggers, we have to make sure they’re from the UK and also that they aren’t going to spam the group,” she said.
Ms Smith thinks the Message Requests service will mean more potential members will see this initial correspondence.
“It means our messages won’t be missed and people can’t claim that they haven’t been spoken to,” she added.
“Some people keep doing the same things over and over again that we’ve asked them not to because the messages we send go into their “others” inbox that they don’t check.”
However, some responses to the announcement about Messenger Requests, made by David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products, on the social network, have been more cautious.
“This means women will get creepy messages directly in their inbox. They used to be able to ignore them as they went to the others folder,” wrote one commenter.
“We truly want to make Messenger the place where you can find and privately connect with anyone you need to reach, but only be reached by the people you want to communicate with,” said Mr Marcus.
“Now, the only thing you need to talk to virtually anyone in the world, is their name.”
He added that the sender will not be able to see whether their message has been ignored.
What’s in the Other inbox?
In the interests of research I decided to have a quick look at mine.
The majority of messages were ancient event invitations, although nobody has ever berated me for my lack of RSVP.
A few unsolicited comments about my appearance, some kinder than others, then there was the obvious spam and one obligatory request to put $20m in my bank account via Nigeria.
Farewell Other Inbox… I’m not sure I will miss you.