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Facebook won’t let the Moments app join its growing pile of abandoned projects. Even after it shut down its Creative Labs division and the experimental apps that emerged from it — including Riff, Slingshot, and Rooms — the company is doing its best to convince its users download the standalone photo-sharing application.
To do that, the company will remove the ability to synchronize photos across multiple devices from the main Facebook app. (You know, the one that has steadily become less important as many of its functions are split into standalone applications like Messenger.) Now the feature will be exclusive to Moments.
A Facebook spokesperson provided Gigaom the following statement via email:
Starting this week, we are beginning to phase out Facebook’s photo syncing feature. This is an opt-in experience that syncs photos taken on your mobile phone to a private section on Facebook, viewable only to you, where you can view or post the photos if you choose. The feature was launched in 2012 when people took photos on their phones, but still posted primarily from computers. People that use the photo syncing feature will have the option to move the photos they’ve previously synced to our new app Moments, where they will be able to view, download, or delete them. If they don’t want to download Moments, you will also be able to download a zip file of your synced photos or delete them from your Facebook profile on your computer.
Some users could welcome this change. Moments is much better at syncing photos than the main Facebook app, and it comes equipped with features like facial recognition and tools that make it easier to get a friends’ photos from an event, so it’s not like Facebook is forcing an incompetent service on its users.
But it’s hard not to view this as yet another of Facebook’s attempts to become the primary interface people use to interact with their digital lives. No longer can someone download the Facebook app and do anything they want with the service — now they must install a bunch of standalone apps to achieve the same result.
The main Facebook app offers access to the news feed; Messenger lets people stay in touch with friends and family; Moments helps people manage photos; Instagram allows them to share photos with the outside world; WhatsApp makes it easy to stay in touch with people who don’t use Facebook; the list goes on.
And we’ve reached the point where even those apps have standalone utilities. Instagram has Layout, Boomerang, and Hyperlapse. Messenger has Selfied, Strobe, and Stickered. It’s surprising that WhatsApp hasn’t been broken into multiple pieces, or spawned a bunch of little apps that augment its service.
Releasing all these standalone apps does make things easier for Facebook users. People don’t have to download Messenger, Instagram, or their add-ons if they don’t want to. Sure, they’ll be limited by what the main Facebook app can do, but they won’t have to jump between multiple apps to accomplish simple tasks.
The gambit also gives Facebook more and more reach on people’s home screens, though, and that could mean more time spent with its products. Instead of being confined to a single app icon, the company could now fill most of a home screen with just its applications. Facebook, in other words, is breaking out of its box.
It’s easier to do that with Moments than with the apps Creative Labs introduced. So even as it cleans house, Facebook appears to be doing its damnedest to make sure people who might benefit at all from Moments’ photo-syncing are going to download it, use it, and devote even more of their home screens to its services.