As you will no doubt have seen, Facebook announced a complete revamp of its internal messaging system. Facebook Messages will, for the first time, allow you to communicate with people outside the Facebook ecosystem.

This isn’t (just) email

Facebook has been keen to stress that this isn’t a Gmail killer and that it’s not really just about email. Despite this, email does lie very much at the heart of the new service.

But in this ‘social inbox’, email (both to normal email addresses and email addresses) is joined by SMS, chat and IM to create an integrated communication hub. It provides a complete conversation archive, no matter which channel you’ve used and cleverly threads the messages from certain people so that it’s easy to manage information overload.

There is obviously a mobile application to handle this on the move and Facebook will also help users filter out messages that might be unimportant to them.

Is this the future?

It’s no surprise that email in its original form remains at the centre of this announcement. As a protocol, email is hard to beat even though many, including Google Wave, have tried. It’s open, as well as being software and hardware agnostic, and is still the main digital communication method used by billions every single day. This is another nail in the coffin for those that have been preaching that social is the death of email.

Facebook’s move to blend email with other services, while still keeping it in its original form is smart. Ultimately, the announcement underlines the idea that electronic mail, in all its forms is not only the universal communication force surrounding social apps, but may soon become inseparable from them.