What? You have no idea what I’m talking about? Oh, you’re in for a fun surprise. Go to your messages. No, no, not on your phone. You have to type “facebook.com” into your browser. Done? Now go to Messages and click that light gray box labeled “Other.” That’s the Other Inbox. I’ll wait here while you click through it, slack-jawed at this mystery unveiled.
The Other inbox was where messages from strangers, or people you only kinda sorta know, would land. And like most people, you probably had no idea it existed. Now that you’ve found it, you’ve probably discovered all kinds of stuff. Maybe you found invitations to a party you would have loved to attend. Maybe someone found your backpack and tried to return it. Maybe there are some incredibly creepy come-ons in there. Whatever is in the Other inbox, it’s yours, and now you know about it—just in time to see it all go way.
Within 10 days, Facebook will roll out Message Requests. It works a lot like the Other inbox, except you can actually find it. Cooler still, even though any one of the 1.49 billion people on Facebook can initiate a conversation, you’ll be able to control whether they can do it a second time.
“If you’re friends on Facebook, if you have each other’s contact info in your phone and have these synced, or if you have an existing open thread, the new messages from that sender will be routed to your inbox,” writes vp of messaging services at Facebook, David Marcus. “Everything else will now be a message request, minus spam attempts that we will continue to ruthlessly combat.”
The biggest change here is messages from strangers (or sorta strangers) will appear in the Messenger app, meaning you have a far greater chance of seeing them, and you get a little information about the person who sent it. That’s the good news. The bad news (or so-so news, depending upon how you feel about your friends’ friends) is that messages from friends of friends will land here, too. This increases the risk that you’ll miss a message you might want, though Facebook is making some effort to ensure you know about the change. And speaking of change, you’ll no longer be able to pay $1 to bypass someone’s Other inbox and have your message land in their primary inbox. (I used this feature exactly once to contact a source on a story. He did not reply.)
This most definitely is a better system. Even if you hate Facebook, you have admit it’s a great tool for reaching people you otherwise couldn’t (whether they reply is another story). Until now, though, your message may well have languished in someone’s Other inbox. Now it won’t. Message Request is less pushy than a Friend Request, more visible than a message sent to an inbox most people never checked, if they knew about it to begin with.
Of course, that means pretty much anyone can reach you. If this freaks you out, you are not alone. Meet Javier: