11 Comments

Summary:

Facebook has already started to supplant traditional email providers as a dominant way that people communicate online. With a new standalone mobile app called Facebook Messenger with SMS-like functionality, the social networking giant is poised to delve even deeper into users’ mobile messaging activity.

Facebook Messenger logo

Facebook has already started to supplant traditional email providers as a dominant way that people communicate online. And now the social networking giant is poised to delve even deeper into users’ messaging activity with a new mobile app with SMS-like functionality.

On Tuesday, Facebook is launching a mobile app for iPhone and Android that allows users to send and receive real-time messages. Dubbed Facebook Messenger, it’s the first standalone app to be launched by the company aside from the general purpose apps Facebook has for various mobile devices.

The development of the Facebook Messenger app has been headed up by the founding team of Beluga, a group text messaging service acquired by Facebook in March. Beluga’s founders Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow told me in an interview Tuesday morning that they have been working on Facebook Messenger essentially since they joined the company after the Beluga deal, with help from the entire existing Facebook Messaging team.

The app works like this: After downloading the app to your mobile phone, you sign in using your Facebook credentials. The app is essentially an extension of Facebook messages, so all of your texts, chats, emails and message history are all within one place — synced across mobile and web. The app can be used to send messages to groups or individuals, and messages can include location information and attachments such as photos.

To me, the coolest part of the app is that it can deliver messages through app notifications and SMS texts, so you can communicate with your friends whether they have the Messenger app or not. Facebook Messenger will be available in the US and Canada starting Tuesday, and will roll out in other regions “shortly,” Davenport said.

As far as Facebook strategy goes, this is a huge move for the company. Om has written here before that Facebook’s future depends on how it can become more fully ingratiated with its users through mobile. While Facebook has become a big part of people’s mobile activity already, the launch of Facebook Messenger shows that the company is willing to make major investments in its mobile growth for the months and years ahead.

Here are some screenshots of Facebook Messenger for iPhone (click to enlarge):

            

  1. You mean like Google+ Huddle? Hmm another area FB is playing catch-up

    1. Its gr8t considering it doesnt cost me a cent

      1. Um, don’t forget a little thing called data charges. No more all you can eat plan pricing courteously of Verizon/ATT…

        Nice analysis Colleen. Very interesting to see FB’s evolving strategies to intake data.

  2. Texting? More like chat or group messaging. It will be interesting to see if it will impact text messaging more so than its attempt so take over email.

    1. The way it allows you to communicate via SMS with people who don’t even have Facebook makes me see it first and foremost as a texting play, but you’re right Dain — it does have a lot of different features all in one.

      I agree, it’ll be interesting to see how it takes off!

      1. Very true Colleen! I did not read the article here to mean that, but after checking out more details at http://www.facebook.com/mobile/messenger I agree with you.

  3. think I’ll wait for iMessage. Not to say it’s better/Apple, just all-but-2 of my friends are on iPhone. If iMessage sucks, Facebook Messenger/Huddle it is.

  4. I don’t like the fact that you have to have a Facebook account.

    The fact that “SMSs” are available to be read on the web is another thing that’d keep me from switching to it. I want to know that my texts are going to a phone, not some iPad or desktop web browser, that somehow gives me some peace of mind.

    Besides, assuming my mother knows how to operate heavy machinery–that being a computer, I don’t need her on Facebook; I’m grateful as it is that she learned to read texts on her iPhone, which is the easiest phone on the world to use, smartphone or not. LOL

    I’d rather stay with WhatsApp, since all my contacts use it already and some of us are already on iMessage.

    You should review other apps though, like Tango and Viber for free video and voice calls respectively. We use them all the time and since data consumption is not an issue–unlimited–in Mexico, well, we save a lot. I understand Verizon Wireless have unlimited plans, don’t they? :D

  5. It’s surprising that they took this long to implement this feature. But fingers crossed it’ll work better than their their ‘improved’ chat features.

  6. Not available in the UK yet, but hopefully it’ll be less buggy than the one in the Facebook app. It looks nice atleast. At the moment, especially when you close and reopen, messages seem to stop coming through randomly.

  7. Is it free to use facebook messenger and message to a mobile number? The person who I want to message does not have facebook. But I sent it to his mobile and it worked. Is this free of cost?

Comments have been disabled for this post