Facebook Proves It Has No Social Skills Whatsoever

By Carol Kopp

NEW YORK ( Minyanville) -- What's the difference between Facebook's ( FB) top management and a gang of socially-stunted hackers who disrupt nine hundred million email accounts just because they can?

Not a joke. The only difference is that Facebook management presumably is not trying to enrage, confuse, and inconvenience people, especially people who are their customers.

You see, Facebook has been unable to exploit the potentially lucrative business of "free" email, because nobody uses the Facebook email service.

Piece of cake to fix, if you happen to have lots of technical skills and no people skills whatsoever. The ace tech team just went in there and changed all the email addresses its users entered on their profiles, and replaced them with a @facebook.com address.

More from Minyanville
Icky New Ways to Use Personal Data
5 Reasons American Business Opportunity is Still Strong
The Return of the Poll Tax

Without notice. Without permission.

Not content with that, the team apparently messed with email contact lists elsewhere across the Web so that, say, your co-workers' communications would go to your Facebook email instead of your work email. This apparently happened to people who synced their contact lists on and off Facebook.

But wait, there's more!

Many users thought those rerouted emails had been lost altogether, since they didn't see them when they clicked the Facebook Messages button, or the inbox of any email system they use regularly. When informed of this problem, Facebook told PCMag.com that it was "having the engineers look into it," but it thought the messages were probably there in the subdirectory labeled "Other," which is intended as a dump for messages you probably don't want. Facebook only puts a message at the top level if it's from one of your Facebook friends, not from your boss or your doctor or your stockbroker, or from anybody who had the sense to stay off of Facebook altogether.

Even that doesn't quite cover it. Facebook will boot an email down to that "Other" directory if it comes from a Facebook friend using an email that is not listed in its Profile of that person. (Does anyone list a workplace email address in Facebook? If so, dumb move.)

Uh, oh. This just in from the engineering team at Facebook: Your missing email messages might not be in "Other" after all. It seems Facebook had a little problem with the way it was "pulling" the email address, and it accidentally pulled its own @facebook.com address on some addresses, but only on some mobile device brands, which it does not name.

The Facebook team says it will fix the syncing problem July 3. They told Gizmodo that it was caused by a "bug," mostly in older Google ( GOOG) Android devices. But a careful reading of Facebook's own explanation suggests that the Facebook team caused the error: They added a Facebook email address to a list. Then, they erased the address added most recently to that list.

At best, this is a failure to test a software change across devices. At worst, it is poor logic -- not a good trait in an engineering team.

Facebook denies that it was screwing around with people's email addresses for commercial reasons. The company says it was simply adding "consistency" to the way email addresses are displayed on its profile pages. This is definitely poor logic.

Oh, and users who don't like the change can undo it by editing their Profiles. And it looks like they're going to have to recreate their contact lists from scratch, because those overwritten addresses are gone for good.

--Written by Carol Kopp of Minyanville.