Foreword: Firstly I would like to state I am not requesting this feature be added. I am not foolish enough to believe that yet another person asking for it will have any impact on its implementation. Instead, I opt to ask people's opinions on the matter, find out what peoples' reasons are for wanting or not wanting such a feature.

Background: I'm a reasonably active StackOverflow user, I ask questions when I get stuck, I answer questions when I get bored. Recently I found a question from a person that obviously didn't quite understand the way SO works, he was asking for some suggestions on how to learn a specific language and better his programming skills. Unfortunately his question got put on hold, and long story short it got me thinking just why there isn't a private messaging system. So I looked here in meta and the continual debate, but I didn't feel any of these questions were actually targeting people's feelings about such a system, they were all asking to implement it or asking why it isn't implemented - not explicitly asking people's opinions on the matter. So, I'm asking now.

Question: What are your opinions on the lack of a private messaging system?

Do you like it because you like the disassociation and believe that SO serves well as a "programmer's wiki", or would you rather a messaging system be implemented despite accusations that it would drag SO down and make it more akin to a forum or social network?


  • 13
    Brilliant. Add it an I'm gone. That said, previous such requests should give you a reasonable idea, shouldn't it?
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:35
  • 10
    "Unfortunately his question got put on hold, and long story short it got me thinking just why there isn't a private messaging system." So... why didn't you comment on the question? Why does the conversation have to be private?
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:36
  • If you see a user in distress, you can contact them through comments.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:50
  • 7
    "Hello can you review my code please?"
    – tombull89
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:51
  • 3
    The exodus of high rep users from Stack Overflow would speedy and comprehensive. Like @Bart, I would be gone as soon as it goes live.
    – talonmies
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:52
  • 2
    btw Pharap, since this appears to be your first Meta adventure: voting works a bit differently here. The downvotes you're receiving are meant to show disagreement with the basic premise of the discussion, they are not a comment on the quality of the discussion.
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:52
  • 1
    repeat forever until the user gets stick and bails on SO.
    – tombull89
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:52
  • I'm pretty sure that private messaging would turn the "top users" list into a "contact one of these experts to get help" list. Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:02
  • and the private messaging is exactly why I am not active on any 'forums'.
    – user221081
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:07
  • 3
    All these opinions are already recorded in the feature requests, though. I'm not sure what purpose it serves to ask for them again.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:17
  • 3
    There's plenty of discussion going on in the feature requests. It doesn't matter which answer is accepted, you can always contribute your viewpoint (even to already declined feature requests, and years -old discussions) and the community can vote and comment on them. There's no point in having a separate "discussion" thread really.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:22

5 Answers 5


A private messaging service would be problematic for several reasons:

  • First, who would be allowed to contact who? Jon Skeet would wake up the next morning with 666 notifications, without proper controls. Those controls (e.g. an approved and blocked list) would be not only difficult to implement, but would also border on social networking and "friends" lists.
  • What use does private messaging serve? If you wish to have an extended discussion with a user, you are free to do so in chat.
  • StackExchange is a question and answer site, where answers are available to those who need them. Private messaging detracts from the focus of the site.
  • Comments suffice for - and are there for the purpose of - most discussion about how a user could improve.
  • I hate notifications.

These are my general thoughts. I'm sure there are plenty of reasons I haven't covered, but what it really comes down to is this: What would private messaging add that can't already be accomplished with the existing system? The answer we have found is, for the most part, a resounding "nothing."

  • 1
    Interestingly, Jon has written a blog post about this (well, not exactly about this, but about the emails he gets from SO users): msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2012/08/22/… - The key phrase there (imho) is: "If you have a question worthy of Stack Overflow, ask it on Stack Overflow"
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:48
  • I have no clue who Jon Skeet is.
    – Pharap
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:49
  • 5
    @Pharap Ah, sorry, assumed knowledge. Jon Skeet is our highest reputation user who never sleeps.
    – user206222
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:49
  • @Pharap Broadly speaking if you have a question on Java or C++ Jon Skeet can answer it (and often does). But I doubt he'd stick around long if the entire world constantly spammed him about their new questions Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:51
  • 2
    The irony of this post is the number of notifications it's generated.
    – user206222
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:53
  • 1
    @EmrakultheAeonsTorn Here's another one. ;)
    – yannis
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:54
  • 1
    @Yannis Don't turn this into a battle. I love battles.
    – user206222
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:55
  • 4
    Did anyone say battle?
    – Bart
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 7:58
  • 2
    "Jon Skeet has accepted your friend request!" LOL Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 11:21

Some thoughts not yet listed on why we don't have these, and why they're probably never going to be implemented:

  • Moderation overhead, we get enough flags on posts as it is, we would need to have ways to report private messages as inappropriate and our moderation teams have much more important things to watch

  • Detraction from the two things we want people doing on our site the most: asking and answering questions. Providing a store and forward service on top of that doesn't add any value to the core purpose of the engine

  • More 'private' means more data to safeguard and store, which doesn't add any value to or enhance our core purpose and

  • This isn't the best use of developer resources given the backlog of feature requests that would conceivably enhance the core experience of asking and answering questions.

The Internet has lots of ways that people can communicate privately, we don't need to create another. If a user wishes to be contacted off site, they need only to provide one way for that to happen in their profile and then software written explicitly for the purpose of keeping people in touch can take it from there.

It just doesn't add any real value, and would (as you noticed) really annoy our established user base unless we implemented it off by default. Then, well, most of the time you'd still be looking for a way to contact someone privately, even with it in place.

Remember, if all you want to do is offer some commentary or insight to help someone and the only reason for wanting it to be private is that it doesn't really fit the context of a question or comment, you can always invite them to a chat room for the two of you.


While I can see why some like the idea, like Emrakul the Aeons Torn, I'd hate it.

We have the chat rooms for that kind of thing. Am not sure about other people, but I come here to learn something new, to ask questions and provide answers (where I can) and really do not want any distractions that come from private messaging.

There is always the chance that it will result in spam messages and for the more experienced amongst us, a whole mess of impatient "gimme the codez' messages.


useless and will cause the site to be a messaging service more than Programing Q&A Community


unnecessary and you already can make a discussion room on the chat to talk to who you want not such a big deal

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