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Has Facebook Messages Killed The BCC?

Facebook is promising to change the future of messaging by integrating texts, chat, and email "in one simple conversation."

The new Facebook Messages basically integrates (if you so wish) all your instant chat, SMS, and emails (you can have a email address) into conversation threads, which can be archived for ever and ever. Like Gmail's Priority Mail, a new social inbox will rank messages from friends higher than, say, a message from your bank:

Relatively soon, we'll probably all stop using arbitrary ten digit numbers and bizarre sequences of characters to contact each other. We will just select friends by name and be able to share with them instantly. We aren't there yet, but the changes today are a small first step.

With the new system, Facebook is getting away from email subject headings, as it found the top three for its email were no subject, "Hi," and "Yo." That all makes sense, I suppose, but I'd be sad to see the humble BCC go.

The CC field has become an art of corporate game-playing. How many arguments in companies have been had over the "snitching CC," or the "absent CC" (when you should have been included but weren't)? If the CC was the art of pettiness, the BCC was the art of subterfuge. Forwarding messages was one thing, the artful BCC -- happening in real time -- was somehow closer to voyeurism.

But BCCs were also genius in other ways. By sending a message (say, an invite) to yourself and including the recipients in BCC, it prevented all those annoying reply-alls ("yep should be able to make it") or endless jokey threads you didn't want to or didn't feel part of.

With the new Facebook Messages, you can opt out of a conversation, but you still might have to endure a lot of those "reply all" mail cloggers. But as far as I can tell there doesn't seem to be a way to hide the recipient list (which would fit with Mark Zuckerberg's thoughts on the end of the age of privacy).

Of course, the current email design has now become enshrined, but only because those were the standards that suited a certain group of scientists in the 1970s. Just as our standards for the next 20/30 years could be decided by the whims of Facebook.

Jaron Lanier (and Zadie Smith) see something more subversive in that design and how that design becomes embedded in technology and, ultimately, our lives. I'm not convinced and think it's more benign and arbitrary than that.

If Facebook's design of integrated messages (where we message a person, not an address or a number) catches on and is replicated and eventually becomes the model, then the humble (but subversive) little BCC might breathe its last. That would be a shame.