Facebook ending email service

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(CNN) — Check your Facebook mail lately?

Didn’t think so. Apparently not many others did, either. So after three-plus years, the world’s largest social media outlet is pulling the plug on its little-used e-mail service, the company confirmed Tuesday.

“We’re making this change because most people haven’t been using their Facebook e-mail address, and we can focus on improving our mobile messaging experience for everyone,” Facebook said in a statement.

For those who do have a Facebook mail account, messages will be forwarded to the primary e-mail address listed in a user’s account, the company said. The changes are planned to roll out in March, and users can turn off that forwarding option if they prefer not to have their personal inboxes flooded with these messages.

“It’s a little bit of bowing to the inevitable,” said Justin Lafferty, editor of the trade site Inside Facebook. The e-mail addresses, which showed up as messages for Facebook users, never took off, and when Facebook tried to make them the default e-mail accounts for all users in mid-2012, “a lot of people were unhappy with that,” he said.

“It was kind of rolled out to everyone regardless of what they wanted,” Lafferty said.

With last week’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp, the fast-growing messaging service, Facebook is focusing more on mobile messaging than e-mail these days.

Facebook ventured into the e-mail field in November 2010, adding the service to the messaging system already used heavily by its 1.2 billion users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time that the system would complement, not compete, with entrenched e-mail giants such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

“We don’t expect anyone to wake up tomorrow and say, ‘I’m going to shut down my Yahoo account or my Gmail account and switch exclusively to Facebook.’ But we do expect a shift to more real-time communication,” he said.

Lafferty said the reversal is unlikely to be remembered in the company’s annals — much like the service itself.

“Many people probably weren’t even aware of the change,” he said.

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