A couple years back, Facebook decided to grant all of its users an @Facebook.com email address. It was called a “Gmail killer” when it first came out in 2010; it brought the Facebook inbox into the email ecosystem, so that someone could send you a Facebook message from Gmail, and you could send someone a Hotmail message from Facebook. “Killer” may be the most over-used word in tech journalism, and it was, of course, wrongly employed here. Very few people used the Facebook email address despite lame attempts by Facebook to promote it, so Facebook is now winding it down. Except rather than killing it all together, they’re resetting it to forward to whatever email address you have listed as the primary one on your Facebook account.
In other words, Facebook created an email address no one wanted or asked for and now plans to set it up as an alias for your existing, real email account. It’s easily figured out, as it’s the bit that comes at the end of someone’s profile url, followed by @facebook.com. Based on my profile url of www.facebook.com/kashmir.hill, you would know mine is email@example.com. So anyone who finds your Facebook profile would be able to email you at your private email, despite whatever your contact settings are on Facebook. It follows in the footsteps of Google making it easier to contact people privately, and also Facebook’s acquisition of private mobile messaging service WhatsApp. Killing off @facebook addresses may be the first step in an eventual integration of WhatsApp into Facebook’s messaging system.
If you like the idea of people more easily being able to get in touch with you privately, then lucky you! If you don’t like it, rejoice, as there will be an opt out.
“Once the changes roll out in early/mid-March, there will be a new setting [to turn off forwarding],” says a Facebook spokesperson. “Under General Account Settings —> Email —> there will be a checkbox that gives you the option to stop using your Facebook email address. By unchecking the box, you will stop receiving messages to your @facebook.com address and forwarding will be disabled.”
That “Email” setting does not yet exist, so you’ll have to wait until March to do this.