Early Preview of Facebook Messages


Yesterday I was fortunate enough to get early access to the new Facebook Messages. I’ve spent some time looking at its support for HTML email and wanted to report back on my early findings. In short: it’s looking quite promising.

Plain text is king

When you first open an email, the plain text part will be displayed (if it exists). Note that they don’t auto-link URLs, which is quite frustrating. They do auto-link URLs in regular Facebook messages, so perhaps this will change in future. Here’s an example of an HTML email as it’s displayed initially:

Example of an email showing its plain text part

How it renders HTML

After clicking on the ‘expand’ link next to the plain text email, the full HTML version is loaded in a pop-over window…

Example of an email showing its HTML part

The rendering is pretty accurate. They’re loading the email’s HTML within an iframe element, so it’s not interfered with too much. They do however add their own CSS rules that will override yours if you’re not careful. Note that in the above example my links should be orange but are displayed blue. It should be easy to force your own link colors using inline CSS, and I’ll continue to investigate to find the best technique for that.

Note that external images are not blocked. This is great news for email marketers. It would be nice if it didn’t default to the plain text view, but at least the HTML version is displayed pretty accurately.

Tracking usage in the wild

We’ve begun tracking Facebook Messages opens within Litmus Email Analytics as of this week. We’ll be able to report back on its market adoption within the coming weeks, as it’s gradually rolled out to more accounts.

More to investigate

There’s much more to investigate about Facebook Messages. We’ll be following up next week with a more detailed post, including aspects such as deliverability (they claim to require SPF or DomainKeys for delivery), and more detail on their HTML rendering. Since few Facebook accounts have access to Messages right now, I thought it would be useful to give you a taste of how it looks as early as possible.