Facebook, you've done it again!
In its continuing effort to give users fresh material to complain about, Facebook made a stealthy change to the profile page on Monday. Your primary email address is now, by default, listed as your @facebook.com address; if you want to display a different default email address, you have to manually change it, a process that requires approximately 12 seconds of clicking on a computer.
As usual, Facebook users responded by flipping out beyond any reasonable measure, knocking over vending machines, tying bandanas around their foreheads and setting their crops on fire (in the digital sense).
But let's take a step back for a second here, and ask a more elementary question: What the heck is your @facebook.com email address, and what is it used for?
It's an email address for your Facebook messages, basically. Facebook has long striven to make its Facebook Messages hub a Hotmail or Gmail competitor. It offers individual Messenger applications for both the desktop and the smartphone; its roll-out of @facebook.com email addresses was a further push to make Facebook your primary channel of communication. Your email address was chosen for you and is simply *email@example.com, where your username is whatever comes after "facebook.com/" on your personal profile page.
So, for example, you can find me at facebook.com/gilbertjasono; that means my Facebook email is firstname.lastname@example.org. (Though you were automatically assigned one, you can change your public Facebook ID one time here; mine (gilbertjasono) is just my last name, my first name, and the title of my favorite modern film adaptation of a Shakespeare play).
How do you use your @facebook.com address? Just like you would use an email address, basically. If someone wants to chat with you via Facebook Messenger but can't access Facebook for some reason (like, say, if your workplace blocks Facebook.com), he or she can email your Facebook address, and the email will show up in your Facebook message box. When you respond to that Facebook message, it will show up as a new email in that person's email inbox. He or she can respond to it, and it will show up as a Facebook message for you -- and so on and so forth, unto infinity.
You can also send new emails to people from the Facebook messages page, by typing in any email address in the "To" field when you start a new message. That email will appear as coming from your @facebook.com address.
You can see how such a conversation would work in the slideshow below, as Zooey Deschanel* and I try to plan a night out -- Zooey uses email, and I use Facebook.
*(Not the famous Zooey Deschanel -- a different one).
So, here's how it works. I (or Zooey Deschanel) can send an email to a Facebook email address...
Zooey's email shows up as a message on my Facebook homepage.
I can respond to Zooey's email with a simple message.
Zooey Deschanel receives my Facebook message as an email.
Zooey responds to me with an email...
And I receive it as a message. The circle of life goes on and on.