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Facebook draws user ire with email switcheroo

In yet another change that upset users, Facebook has replaced the email addresses users chose to display on their profile pages with @facebook.com addresses.

Previously, users may have displayed their personal yahoo.com or gmail.com address to let people know how to contact them outside of Facebook. Now, Facebook has hidden those addresses and put a Facebook email listing.

The changes raised users' suspicions. By hiding other email addresses Facebook can keep its already-captive audience even more captive. Sending an email to a Facebook.com address will land the email in the messages section of a user's Facebook profile. The more people use Facebook to communicate, the more the company can target ads based on the conversations they have on its platform — just as Google targets ads to Gmail users based on text in their emails.

"They've got an email service that no one is using," said Forrester analyst Nate Elliott. Getting people to send emails to and from Facebook deepens people's connection to the site, he added. "This is a way of encouraging use — it's just a rather crude way."

The email change was first pointed out by bloggers over the weekend and publicized by media outlets Monday. The exposure led to gripes from users, mostly on their Facebook pages and on Twitter.

In a statement, Facebook said it is giving users Facebook.com email addresses "because we find that many users find it useful to connect with each other, but using the Facebook email is completely up to you." It added that the email address people use to log in to Facebook or receive notifications won't change.

Users who are bothered by the change can reset their profile. Facebook didn't delete the previously displayed email addresses. So, to revert back to the original address, click on the "about" section of your profile. Once there, look for "Contact Info" and click on the edit icon on its right hand corner. There, you can change who can see your email address and which email addresses they can see.

The Facebook.com email address lets users communicate with outside email addresses via Facebook, but it's unclear how many people use the feature.

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